PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Two men who took part in the armed occupation of a U.S. wildlife refuge in Oregon were convicted of federal conspiracy charges on Friday, in a split verdict that saw two other men cleared of the same counts, local media reported.
Jason Patrick and Darryl Thorn were each found guilty of conspiring to prevent federal workers from doing their jobs at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in remote eastern Oregon, while Duane Ehmer and Jake Ryan were cleared of those charges, according to the Oregonian newspaper.
Ehmer and Ryan, however, were found guilty of depredation of government property for using an excavator to dig trenches at the refuge during last year's occupation of the site, the newspaper reported.
The U.S. District Court jury of seven women and five men deliberated for three days, also finding Thorn guilty of possessing a firearm in a federal facility, but the panel acquitted Patrick and Ryan of that charge, according to the Oregonian.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the verdicts and representatives for federal prosecutors were not available for comment.
Defense attorneys argued during opening statements in the trial, which began in February, that the defendants were excercising their constitutional rights to peaceably assemble and seek reddress of their grievances.
But prosecutors said that the men were on trial for their actions, not their beliefs.
Last October, another trial over the 41-day standoff ended with the acquittal of anti-government activist Ammon Bundy and six of his followers, who cast their protest as a patriotic act of civil disobedience in opposition to U.S. government control over millions of acres of public lands in the West.
Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan and their father Cliven Bundy are in federal custody ahead of a trial scheduled to begin later this year over another armed standoff with federal officers in 2014 in Nevada. The first of three trials in that case began on Feb. 9. (Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles)