BOISE — As Ammon Bundy stood outside the Ada County Courthouse Monday, refusing to wear a mask required to attend his jury trial, the anti-government activist had an ally on the inside. Ada County Commissioner Ryan Davidson asked Magistrate Judge David Manweiler to grant Bundy access to the building without a mask.
In a phone interview with the Idaho Press on Tuesday, Davidson said he had a “brief” conversation with Manweiler, who had just issued bench warrants for Bundy and Aaron Von Schmidt, another anti-mask activist, on charges of failure to appear. The commissioner asked the judge “if there’s any accommodation that could be made” to allow Bundy to enter the building without a mask. Davidson also said he “might have asked” Manweiler if he could reverse-course on the failure to appear warrant and allow the trial to proceed.
“But (Manweiler) told me that the jury had already been dismissed, so there was no way to reverse anything,” Davidson told the Idaho Press. “I wanted the cases to go on. We had a big crowd at the front door. We want to get these cases processed. We don’t want people endlessly tying up our resources by bonding out, not going to trial.”
Manweiler did not return a phone call from the Idaho Press seeking comment. Judge Steven Hippler, administrative district judge for Idaho’s Fourth Judicial District, told the Idaho Press he is “confident that our judges, here, know that if someone approaches them about a conversation that would be inappropriate … they would stop the conversation and say they can’t talk about it.”
Davidson said he was “not trying to influence” the judge’s decision.
“As an elected official I’m very opposed to the current Covid restrictions that are in place by the Idaho Supreme Court,” he said. “I’m working on finding a solution to that. I’m working to have people be able to get into the courthouse without masks and social distancing. That’s my personal belief.”
Last month, the Central District Health board lifted its mask mandate for Ada County. However, a city of Boise mask mandate remains in place, and the Ada County Courthouse requires that visitors wear masks for the safety of all court participants and staff — the county is required to do so under an emergency order issued by the Idaho Supreme Court.
Bundy, who has led protests against government safety mandates since early in the novel coronavirus pandemic, and Von Schmidt were set to go on trial Monday for charges of trespassing and resisting or obstructing officers in connection with a protest at the Idaho Statehouse during the August special legislative session. People’s Rights, a group Bundy formed last spring to oppose mandates such as mask requirements, organized a protest Monday at the Ada County Courthouse, which dozens of people attended.
Davidson, who was photographed speaking with the protestors, said he told them “if they didn’t comply with the order they were going to be arrested.”
“I was hoping to get a peaceful resolution,” he said.
In total, three of the protestors, including Bundy and Von Schmidt, were arrested. After a scuffle with law enforcement, Casey J. Baker, 69, was arrested and charged with a felony count of battery on a law enforcement officer and misdemeanor count of resisting and obstructing officers. Garth G. Gaylord, 32, was cited, but not arrested, on a charge of resisting and obstructing officers.
After the protest at the courthouse, 12-15 members of Bundy’s group went to Manweiler’s home to protest, Prosecutor Whitney Welsh said in court Tuesday, KTVB reported. The demonstrators yelled, shouted obscenities, rang his doorbell, and wrote “tyrant,” “mask-hole,” and “dismiss the case” in front of his home with chalk, she said, according to the report.
Bundy, who appeared in court via video livestream from the jail Tuesday, told the judge the jail conditions were “miserable” and that being in custody was keeping him from getting a fair shot at defending himself, according to KTVB. The Ada County Sheriff’s Office told KTVB that prior to his initial arraignment, Bundy had refused to participate in the booking process, including fingerprinting and having a mugshot taken. Once he agreed to comply with the process and was fully booked into the jail, he was allowed to use the phone, the sheriff’s office said.
Judge Adam Kimball left their bail set at $10,000, KTVB reported. The new trial date for both men is set for May 10.
Katie Terhune with media partner KTVB reported on Tuesday’s hearing.