Defense attorney Jesse Merrithew told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday that the larger jury pool is needed because the acquittals of seven other defendants will make it harder to seat an impartial jury.

PAHRUMP, Nev. (AP) — Ammon Bundy and his brother, Ryan, are back in federal custody in Nevada ahead of a February trial on charges stemming from a 2014 standoff with federal agents outside their father’s ranch near Bunkerville.

Ammon Bundy’s attorney, Daniel Hill, confirmed Tuesday that the sons of Cliven Bundy were transferred Monday from a federal detention center in Seattle to the Nevada Southern Detention Center in Pahrump, about 60 miles west of Las Vegas. Cliven Bundy also is being held there.

Rancher Cliven Bundy stands along the road near his ranch after speaking with media. Cliven Bundy and his wife Carol Bundy were returning from a trip to visit the family of LaVoy Finicum, a 55-year-old rancher from Cain Beds, Ariz., who died Tuesday after law enforcement officers initiated a traffic stop near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. It's unclear what happened in the moments before his death. Bunkerville, Nevada, Jan. 27, 2016 | AP Photo by John Locher, St. George News
Rancher Cliven Bundy stands along the road near his ranch after speaking with media. Bunkerville, Nevada, Jan. 27, 2016 | AP Photo by John Locher, St. George News

The brothers were acquitted of federal conspiracy charges in federal court in Portland, Oregon, on Nov. 2 after a five-week trial related to an armed takeover at a national wildlife refuge.

Their trial in federal court in Las Vegas is scheduled to begin Feb. 6. They face 16 felony counts, including assault on a federal officer, extortion and obstruction of justice.

Meanwhile, lawyers for a second set of defendants to be tried for the occupation of the federal wildlife refuge in Oregon said Wednesday they want a pool of 2,000 jurors to be summoned as soon as possible. But the prosecution sought a delay while it “evaluates its position” on the defendants.

Kevin Sonoff, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, had no immediate comment when asked for clarification on what that meant.

The opposing stances were contained in a status report filed in federal court in Portland, three weeks after a jury acquitted seven other defendants — including Ammon and Ryan Bundy — of the same conspiracy charge: conspiring to impede federal workers from their jobs.

Even though the government said it wanted to evaluate its position, attorneys on both sides agreed to file pretrial motions by Dec. 16 and for arguments over the motions to take place the week of Jan. 16. A trial for the second set of defendants is scheduled to start on Feb. 14.

Defense attorney Jesse Merrithew told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday that the larger jury pool is needed because the acquittals of seven other defendants will make it harder to seat an impartial jury.

It will be more difficult to find jurors that have not heard of the case

It will be more difficult to find jurors that have not heard of the case and come to some conclusion about what happened,” Merrithew said, adding that “the reaction of the public to the verdicts was extremely negative.”

The armed group seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2 and occupied it for 41 days to oppose prison sentences for two local ranchers convicted of setting fires and to protest federal control of public lands in the West.

LaVoy Finicum, a rancher from Arizona, who is part of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge speaks with reporters during a news conference at the the refuge. Law enforcement had yet to take any action against the group numbering close to two dozen who are upset over federal land policy. Finicum said the group would examine the underlying land ownership transactions to begin to "unwind it," stating he was eager to leave Oregon, near Burns, Oregon, Jan. 5, 2016| AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, St. George News
LaVoy Finicum, a rancher from Arizona, who is part of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge speaks with reporters during a news conference at the the refuge. Law enforcement had yet to take any action against the group numbering close to two dozen who are upset over federal land policy. Finicum said the group would examine the underlying land ownership transactions to begin to “unwind it,” stating he was eager to leave Oregon, near Burns, Oregon, Jan. 5, 2016| AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, St. George News

One occupier, LaVoy Finicum, was shot to death by state police at a roadblock as he and occupation leaders were driving to a meeting in an adjacent county.

Merrithew’s client is Jake Ryan, whom Merrithew described as “a very low-level guy” among the occupiers.

“The government has provided no information what he was doing in the refuge,” the attorney said. “I believe he operated a backhoe to dig a trench after LaVoy Finicum was shot.”

Besides Ryan, defendants in the second trial are Dylan Anderson, Sandra Anderson, Sean Anderson, Duane Ehmer, Jason Patrick and Darryl Thorn.

Andrew Kohlmetz, Patrick’s attorney, said he believes the prior acquittals — including of occupation leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy — should be taken into account by prosecutors.

“As a matter of fairness, I don’t see how the federal government can say we respect that jury’s verdict and then turn around and try less culpable defendants,” Kohlmetz said in a telephone interview.

Eleven other defendants pleaded guilty under plea bargains before the acquittals in the first trial on Oct. 27.

St. George News

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