Eric James Parker, 32; Steve Arthur Stewart, 26; O. Scott Drexler, 44; and Todd Engel, 48, had their first court appearances Friday following an indictment unsealed Thursday.
The four were among 14 defendants charged this week for their roles in the April 12, 2014 standoff in the Bunkerville, Nev., area, sparked when federal officials tried rounding up cattle that belonged to rancher Cliven Bundy.
Parker and Stewart, of Hailey, and Drexler, of Challis, were in the Boise federal courtroom in person. Engel, a resident of Boundary County, was arraigned via video conference from Coeur d’Alene.
Members of the Three Percent of Idaho attended each of the arraignments. Parker is the organization’s vice president.
All four said they could not afford an attorney, so were each appointed their own public defender.
They all face the same charges: conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, conspiracy to impede or injure a federal law enforcement officer, using and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, assault on a federal law enforcement officer, threatening a federal law enforcement officer, obstruction of the due administration of justice, interference with interstate commerce by extortion, and interstate travel in aid of extortion.
Upon conviction, the defendants would face five counts of criminal forfeiture, which means they would have to forfeit property involved in the crimes: about $3 million plus firearms, ammunition and cattle.
Life sentences are possible under the charges.
Parker became a worldwide face of the incident after he was photographed crouched on a bridge, aiming his assault rifle at federal agents at the Bundy Ranch.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Whatcott wrote in a court filing that Parker “embraced his new-found fame.” Since the Bundy Ranch confrontation, Parker took part in an armed April 2015 confrontation between miners and the Bureau of Land Management in Grants Pass, Ore., and at a protest four months later in Lincoln, Mont. There, Parker set up an armed checkpoint on public land leading to the White Hope Mine. Miners wanted the U.S. Forest Service to cease regulation of the mine, Whatcott wrote.
Parker and the Three Percent of Idaho also took part in protests earlier this year in Burns, Ore., to protest the prison sentences of Dwight and Steven Hammond, two Oregon ranchers, for arson on federal land. Those protests preceded the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by a different group led by Cliven Bundy’s sons, Ammon and Ryan.
Next up are hearings on whether each man will remain detained pending trial. Drexler, Parker and Stewart will have detention hearings in Boise on March 9. Engel is scheduled to have his detention hearing in Coeur d’Alene on March 10.
Reporter John Sowell contributed.