Carol Bundy, in an interview with The Republic, said her husband, sons and others are really being tried for making federal authorities look bad and forcing them to back down in the face of a citizen uprising.
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An investigation could derail one of the most high-profile land-use trials in modern Western history.
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Cliven Bundy refuses to pay fees for cattle grazing on public land for 20 years.
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Bundy Ranch trial: Carol Bundy speaks
BLM misconduct probe may derail Bundy ranch standoff trial
Rancher: ‘We did what we had to do’
Retrial of 4 earlier defendants must come first, judge rules.
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy will get his day in court later rather than sooner. And he will remain in custody while he waits.
A federal judge this week rejected Bundy’s attempt to jump-start his trial on conspiracy and weapons charges for taking up arms against federal agents in the 2014 standoff near his ranch.
Nevada Judge Gloria Navarro said Bundy, 71, will have to wait to go to trial until after the retrial of four co-defendants has ended. That case is scheduled to begin June 26 and could take months.
Navarro’s ruling is the first clear indication that prosecutors are unwilling to let the four go after a jury deadlocked on all charges against them last month.
“The government’s response indicated its intent to retry the … defendants following the April 2017 mistrial,” Navarro wrote.
The Nevada U.S. Attorney’s Office on Tuesday declined comment on “whether or not a decision has been made” to retry the four defendants. But also on Tuesday, prosecutors challenged a motion for acquittal made by one of the defendants based on the jury’s inability to to reach a verdict.
Prosecutors said the court should deny Oklahoma defendant Richard Lovelien’s move for acquittal.
“His reliance on the fact that the jury did not vote unanimously to convict him is inapt … and fails to show that a rational jury could not convict,” prosecutors wrote in their motion.
Jurors on April 24 convicted two defendants on multiple counts but could not reach a unanimous verdict against Lovelien and three others.
The six men were described by prosecutors as the least culpable of 17 defendants charged with conspiracy, extortion, assault and obstruction for helping Bundy fend off a government roundup of his cattle in what became known as the Battle of Bunkerville.
Their trial was the first of three separate trials in the Bundy Ranch case and was supposed to serve as a strategic springboard for prosecutors.
Cliven Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy and two others whom prosecutors said led the standoff are scheduled to be tried second.
‘Rights have already been violated’
Cliven Bundy has repeatedly claimed that the government has denied him a right to a speedy trial. In a motion this month, he asked to be tried alongside the four defendants in the June 26 retrial.
“Mr. Bundy’s speedy trial rights have already been violated by the numerous delays in this case caused by the court and caused by the United States,” Las Vegas lawyer Bret Whipple said in his motion.
Whipple indicated Bundy has remained incarcerated since his arrest in February 2016.
“Mr. Bundy cannot be harmed by further delay,” Whipple said. “The United States cannot detain these defendants indefinitely while conducting indefinite and repeated retrials.”
Whipple argued the court should dismiss the charges against the four defendants rather than retry them, saying the evidence is “weak and unlikely to convince any jury, no matter how many bites at the apple the United States is awarded.”
Navarro, citing court rules that require a retrial within 70 days of a mistrial, disagreed. She scheduled the start of the second trial 30 days after the end of the retrial.
Land-use battles in Nevada, Oregon
The Bundy Ranch standoff is one of the most high-profile land-use cases in modern Western history, pitting cattle ranchers, anti-government protesters and militia members against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
For decades, the BLM repeatedly ordered Bundy to remove his cattle from federal lands and in 2014 obtained a court order to seize his cattle as payment for more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees.
The Bundy family issued a social-media battle cry. Hundreds of supporters from every state in the union, including members of several militia groups, converged on his ranch about 70 miles north of Las Vegas.
The BLM abandoned the roundup because agents feared they were going to die, federal prosecutors told jurors. They said law-enforcement officers were surrounded and outgunned in a dusty arroyo beneath Interstate 15 where they had penned the cattle.
Local, state and federal law-enforcement officers testified they were afraid they would be shot or be drawn into a bloody shooting war with unarmed men, women and children in the crossfire.
The standoff was hailed as a victory by militia members. Ammon and Ryan Bundy cited their success at Bundy Ranch in their run-up to the siege of an Oregon wildlife refuge in 2016, also in protest of BLM policies.
An Oregon federal jury acquitted Ammon, Ryan and five others in October. A second federal jury in Oregon delivered a split verdict against four others in March, acquitting two men on conspiracy charges and convicting two others.
No arrests were made in the Bundy Ranch case until after the Oregon siege ended.
Government’s conspiracy claims dismissed
The standoff was represented for many by an iconic photograph of a figure lying prone on an overpass and sighting a long rifle at BLM agents in the wash below. The image galvanized the public and brought international awareness to the feud over public lands and the potential consequences of such a dispute.
But jurors in the first trial couldn’t agree on whether the man in that picture, Eric Parker of Idaho, brandished a weapon, assaulted officers or even posed a threat to them.
Jurors in the first trial began deliberating April 13 after two months of testimony involving 35 prosecution and four defense witnesses.
Jurors found Gregory Burleson of Arizona guilty on eight charges, including threatening and assaulting a federal officer, obstruction, interstate travel in aid of extortion and brandishing a weapon. Burleson told a video crew after the standoff that he had gone to the Bundy Ranch to kill federal agents. The video crew was made up of undercover FBI agents.
Jurors found Todd Engel of Idaho guilty of obstruction and interstate travel in aid of extortion.
Burleson and Engel will not be retried on any other charges on which the jury deadlocked.
Jurors told lawyers after the trial they never came close to convicting the four other defendants, voting 10-2 in favor of acquitting Lovelien and Steven Stewart, of Idaho, and splitting on verdicts against Eric Parker and O. Scott Drexler, also of Idaho.
Moreover, jurors did not find any of the six defendants guilty on the two main conspiracy charges that made up the core of the government’s case.
Defendants denied they conspired to help Bundy and told jurors the case had nothing to do with cattle. They said they came to protect the public from overzealous and aggressive law-enforcement officers. Defendants said they were moved to join Bundy after seeing internet images of officers throwing an elderly woman to the ground, loosing dogs on one of Bundy’s sons and shocking protesters with stun guns.
Defendants attempted to cast the case as a constitutional issue and they were exercising their First Amendment right to assemble and Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Federal prosecutors argued defendants joined a conspiracy when they knowingly agreed to help Bundy resist federal agents in the roundup of the cattle. Prosecutors said the Constitution does not give anyone the right to ignore law-enforcement officers and threaten them with a gun.
1st trial, Bundy Ranch defendants
Gregory Burleson of Arizona: Guilty on eight counts.
Todd Engel of Idaho: Guilty on two counts.
Richard Lovelien of Oklahoma: Jury deadlocked.
O. Scott Drexler of Idaho: Jury deadlocked.
Eric Parker of Idaho: Jury deadlocked.
Steven Stewart of Idaho: Jury deadlocked.
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