A significant amount of the FBI’s information used to charge Ammon Bundy came from an activist named Pete Santilli, who was living inside the refuge and broadcasting live his conversations with fellow activists.
To demonstrate a conspiracy, the government has a lower burden than it would with similar charges, such as aiding and abetting, or solicitation. A conspiracy charge in federal court does not require the underlying offense to have taken place, so prosecutors can charge the defendants based on their statements, without proving they actually committed a crime.
That is where Santilli’s broadcasts proved so useful to the FBI.
“We’re continuing the stand at the Malheur National Wildlife Reserve,” Ammon Bundy told Santilli in a conversation on Jan. 2, the day the occupation began. “Let everybody know that.”
Later, Bundy was recorded telling Santilli, “Malheur, Malheur,” at which point, the FBI affidavit says, Santilli nods and then introduces Bundy, who gives a speech.
At one point in a video, Santilli’s cameraman is recording Bundy speaking to another activist when the cameraman seems to realize he shouldn’t be broadcasting it. The cameraman steps away and bumps into someone. “I was trying to get away from that conversation,” he explains.
Criminal complaint against Oregon protesters