Far-right activist Ammon Bundy loses defamation case and faces millions of dollars in fines
Jul 25, 2023, 9:39 AM
(Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP, File)
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A far-right activist who led the takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon now must pay millions of dollars in damages after a hospital in Idaho won a defamation lawsuit against them.
The lawsuit by St. Luke’s Regional Health accused Ammon Bundy and his associate Diego Rodriguez of making defamatory statements against the hospital and its employees after Rodriguez’s infant grandson was temporarily removed from his family and taken to St. Luke’s amid concerns for his health.
Police said at the time that medical personnel determined the child was malnourished and had lost weight. The hospital claimed Bundy and Rodriguez orchestrated a smear campaign against it.
Late Monday, a jury at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise agreed, awarding the hospital damages exceeding $50 million, the hospital announced.
“The jury’s decision imposes accountability for the ongoing campaign of intimidation, harassment and disinformation these defendants have conducted,” St. Luke’s said in a statement. “It also affirms the importance of protecting health care providers and other public servants from attacks intended to prevent them from carrying out their responsibilities.”
Bundy had urged his followers to protest at the hospital and at the homes of child protection service workers, law enforcement officers and others involved in the child protection case. Rodriguez wrote on his website that the baby was “kidnapped,” and suggested that the state and people involved in the case were engaged in “child trafficking” for profit.
The lawsuit was filed more than a year ago. Since then, Bundy has ignored court orders related to the lawsuit, filed trespassing complaints against people hired to deliver legal paperwork, and called on scores of his followers to camp at his home for protection when he learned he might be arrested on a warrant for a misdemeanor charge of contempt of court.
Bundy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the jury’s decision. Bundy wasn’t represented by an attorney, nor was Rodriguez, according to court papers.
In 2016, Bundy led a 41-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, to protest the arson convictions of two ranchers who set fires on federal land where they had been grazing their cattle.
In 2014, Bundy’s father, rancher Cliven Bundy, rallied supporters to stop officers from impounding Bundy Ranch cattle over more than $1 million in unpaid fees and penalties for grazing livestock on government land.
Ammon Bundy was acquitted of criminal charges in Oregon, and the Nevada criminal case ended in a mistrial.