A convicted murderer from Los Osos accused of participating in the ill-fated armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon in January is scheduled to stand trial alongside the militia group’s alleged leader and dozens of others in September.
Neil Sigurd Wampler, 68, has been an outspoken gun rights advocate in San Luis Obispo County and in January joined Ammon Bundy and his followers to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside Burns, Ore., to protest federal authority over public lands in the West.
Wampler served as camp cook and avoided arrest when he left the refuge prior to the end of the occupation in late January, when one armed protester was shot and killed by state troopers at a roadblock.
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Wampler was named with six other protesters in a federal indictment in February and charged with a single felony count of conspiring to impede a federal officer through use of force, intimidation or threats. He was arrested by FBI agents at his Los Osos home and arraigned in federal court in Los Angeles.
A U.S. District Court judge then ordered Wampler back to Oregon, where he was held at an undisclosed federal detention facility until his release March 8, Gerri Badden, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Oregon, said Friday.
The judge is holding pretty firm that she wants this case heard in September.
Gerri Badden, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Oregon
Days after his release, the Attorney’s Office filed a superseding indictment that consolidated Wampler’s criminal case with the roughly two dozen other defendants, including brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy.
While Wampler faces the lone conspiracy charge, the Bundys and several others also face charges of possession of firearms or dangerous weapons in a federal facility, and theft and degradation of government property.
Both Bundy brothers have been deemed dangerous by a judge and will remain in custody while they await trial, according to The Oregonian newspaper. Both are also facing trial on conspiracy, obstruction, weapons, threats and assault charges for the April 2014 standoff with federal Bureau of Land Management agents near Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Their father, Cliven Bundy, has also been arrested and faces similar charges over the 2014 incident. Each refuses to enter pleas, according to the newspaper.
After the Oregon standoff began, reporters for The Oregonian published a series of profiles of the occupiers, ultimately discovering that Wampler was convicted in 1977 of second-degree murder in the killing of his father. He served five years in state prison before being released.
Badden said Wampler is not required to be present at the next significant status hearing in U.S. District Court in Oregon on May 4. She said, however, that U.S. District Court Judge Anna J. Brown has been adamant in monthly hearings that the defendants stand trial on Sept. 7.
“There’s been a lot of maneuvering with all the defendants involved,” Badden said. “But the judge is holding pretty firm that she wants this case heard in September.”
A telephone number listed in a public database for Wampler was not answered Friday, and Badden could not confirm if he was known to be back in California.