• Bundy Ranch trial: Carol Bundy speaks

    Bundy Ranch trial: Carol Bundy speaks

  • BLM misconduct probe may derail Bundy ranch standoff trial

    BLM misconduct probe may derail Bundy ranch standoff trial

  • Rancher: 'We did what we had to do'

    Rancher: ‘We did what we had to do’

Defendants in the Bundy Ranch standoff trial in Las Vegas waived closing arguments Tuesday, ending a monthlong retrial with an unspoken protest about court proceedings.

Lawyers for the four men charged in the 2014 clash among federal agents, militia members and cattle ranchers took the unusual step of resting their cases without a final address to the jury.

The move could set the groundwork for an appeal in a case in which lawyers say they have been prevented from mounting a proper defense and that defendants have been improperly denied a fair trial.

Events came to a head Thursday when U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro abruptly ended court by ordering defendant Eric Parker off the stand and striking his testimony from the record as jurors watched. 

Just after 3 p.m. Tuesday, defendants were called to make closing arguments, when lawyers typically seek to drive home critical points in the case in a last effort to sway jurors.


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Lawyers for each defendant declined to make closing arguments without elaborating on their strategy or reasons why.  

Jurors began deliberations Tuesday afternoon.

The defense attorneys’ decisions followed hours of arguments by federal prosecutors, who systematically laid out their case against defendants for their parts in a conspiracy to help Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy prevent federal agents from rounding up his cattle.

Prosecutors singled out defendants in an attempt to show how each was involved in a coordinated, armed effort, each with an individual role to force federal agents to back down. 

RELATED:  Phoenix man gets 68 years in Bundy Ranch standoff

Prosecutors said some defendants acted as spotters while another served as the equivalent of a getaway driver in a bank robbery.

Parker, Steven Stewart and O. Scott Drexler, all of Idaho, and Richard Lovelien of Oklahoma are accused of conspiracy, extortion, assault and obstruction for helping rancher Cliven Bundy fend off a government roundup of his cattle in what became known as the Battle of Bunkerville. 

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 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.

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.

Navarro’s rulings, aimed at trying to avoid jury nullification, have severely limited defense arguments. 

Navarro has barred defendants from discussing why they traveled thousands of miles to join protesters at the Bundy Ranch. She will not allow them to testify about perceived abuses by federal authorities during the cattle roundup that might have motivated them to participate.

Navarro also has restricted defendants from raising constitutional arguments, or mounting any defense based on their First Amendment rights to free speech and their Second Amendment rights to bear arms. In her rulings, Navarro has said those are not applicable arguments in the case.

Federal officials, however, do not face the same restrictions. To show defendants were part of a conspiracy, they have referenced events that happened months, or years, after the standoff.

Defense lawyers called for a mistrial Monday and accused prosecutors of wrongly depriving Parker of his right to testify in a way that irreparably damaged the case.

Prosecutors shot back with a motion calling for sanctions against three of the defendants and their lawyers, accusing them of repeatedly violating court orders by introducing prohibited information and attempting to derail the trial through jury nullification.

Navarro rejected the mistrial and refused to impose sanctions. She did, however, agree to instruct jurors to treat Parker’s testimony as if it never happened.

That meant jurors only heard from a single defendant.

Four defense witnesses were permitted to testify via Skype last week, but the jury was not allowed to hear what they said.

Navarro ruled the witnesses, who were at the standoff, failed to establish grounds for self-defense claims sought by defendants.

On Monday, Drexler took the stand and delivered the only defense testimony jurors were allowed to hear.

Drexler testified even though he brought weapons to the standoff, he had no intention of threatening or assaulting law-enforcement officers.

“My intent was to disappear and not be a threat to any person in the wash,” he said.

Drexler admitted bringing an AR-15, a .45 handgun and 250 rounds of ammunition to Bunkerville. On cross-examination, prosecutors sought to show he intended to intimidate authorities and force them to “act more civil.”

 A jury in April deadlocked on charges against the four men. It convicted two other defendants on multiple counts. But the jury could not agree on conspiracy charges — a key component of the government’s case — against any of the six.

Three trials are scheduled for 17 defendants who are being prosecuted based on their levels of culpability in the standoff. Although defendants in the first trial are considered the least culpable, all face the same charges and could spend the rest of their lives in prison.

The second trial will include Cliven Bundy and his sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who are considered ringleaders.


As jury weighs Bundy Ranch standoff, Carol Bundy awaits her husband’s fate  

What made Ammon Bundy go from AZ businessman to leader of the Oregon standoff?

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