Utahn called 'danger to community' after role in Oregon standoff
(KUTV) A Utah man who took part in the armed standoff against the federal government in Oregon in January, will not be released from jail with conditions. Prosecutors convinced the judge he is a flight risk and a danger to the community.
Wesley Kjar, 32, of Manti was arrested on Feb. 11 off 4500 South and Interstate 15 in Murray. Assistant U.S. Attorney for Utah Alicia Cook told Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead that Kjar was hauling a trailer with two pistols, three rifles and fifteen loaded magazines. He also had camouflage clothing and a tactical vest in the trailer.
Kjar will stay at the Weber County Jail until he's transferred to Oregon to face several federal charges that include using threats of violence to take-over a wildlife refuge.
Kjar's father and brother were in the courtroom as well as Todd McFarlane, an attorney who is not representing Kjar in the case, but is acting as an advocate.
"He is not a danger."
McFarlane said he met Kjar when he traveled to Oregon at the request of the family of Lavoy Finicum, one of the occupiers in Oregon who was shot and killed by police. McFarlane said he was sent to Oregon to convince Finicum to leave Oregon and return home. While Finicum did not leave, Kjar did.
"After he had been there for a few days, he made the conscious decision to remove himself from that situation," said McFarlane of Kjar.
Kjar, McFarlane and others then went to LDS church headquarters in Salt Lake City, hoping to meet with church leaders and convince them to talk other occupiers into leaving too. Many of those who took over the wildlife refuge in Oregon to protest the government, are Mormon.
LDS leaders did not meet with the group.
Kjar's attorney Spencer Rice told the judge that after Finicum's funeral in Kanab, Utah, many of his supporters and sympathizers were angry that he was killed by federal officers. They were plotting revenge. Rice said Kjar was a "voice of reason" and tried to dissuade people from resorting to violence.
But Cook told the judge that Kjar was the "right hand man" of Ammon Bundy, one of the leaders of the Oregon occupation. She presented the judge with news articles and photos by Reuters that show Kjar armed with a weapon and wearing a tactical vest. She said although he did not make overt threats, the weapons in the images were meant to "convey intimidation."
Cook also said Kjar was quoted in news reports as saying he "wouldn't hesitate to stand between a bullet and Ammon Bundy."
She said while Kjar didn't make violent threats on social media, he did rally others to go to Oregon and join the effort.
As a rancher who had concerns about government intrusion on federal lands, Rice said his client went to Oregon to see for himself what was going on. He left his job on an oil rig in Colorado and headed for Oregon.
Once there, McFarlane said he met the Bundy family for the first time and they liked him and felt he understood them.
"I think the Bundy's recognized in Wes Kjar a good, dependable, hard-working farm boy," he said.
There will be no more court hearings for Kjar in Utah.
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