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Bundy rancher who led Oregon standoff allegedly plotted to use sheets in jailbreak

Ryan Bundy, who led a weeks-long militia occupation of a wildlife refuge earlier this year, claims he was just a "rancher trying to practice braiding rope."

by Liz Fields
Jul 19 2016, 5:20pm

Photo by Rick Bowmer/AP

In a would-be hightail worthy of a Wild West movie, Ryan Bundy, who was at the helm of a weeks-long armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon earlier this year, allegedly plotted to escape from a county jail using a rope he hand-knotted from bed sheets.

While awaiting his trial on federal conspiracy charges, which will take place in September, Bundy, 43, allegedly tore up the sheets and strung them together, federal prosecutors said at a pretrial hearing on Monday. Authorities found the makeshift rope under Bundy's mattress on April 8, along with six extra pillowcases, a chair, two extra pairs of boxers, and unauthorized food.

Bundy told guards he was merely a "rancher trying to practice braiding rope," and denied that he had been trying to escape.

"It's self-serving speculation and simply not true, your honor," Bundy reportedly said in court.

Related: 'We are going to light up the whole country on fire': The arson that led to the Oregon militia standoff

Ryan Bundy, along with his older brother Ammon Bundy, was responsible for orchestrating the nearly four-week takeover of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by militiamen in Oregon's Harney County in January. The occupiers were protesting federal control of vast areas of land.

The occupation ended with the fatal shooting of one of the militiamen and the arrests of the Bundy brothers and other ringleaders at an FBI roadblock near the wildlife refuge. Ryan Bundy was shot in the arm during the encounter.

Both brothers remain in custody pending their trials. Those arrested face federal felony charges of conspiracy to use force and intimidation or threats to impede federal officers from discharging their duties — a charge that carries a maximum six-year prison sentence and fines. Bundy's father, Cliven, was a key figure in a 2014 armed standoff with federal officials over unpaid grazing fees in Nevada.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields

Reuters contributed to this report.