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’
LAS VEGAS — A federal jury, saying it was “hopelessly deadlocked,” did not reach a verdict on most counts in the trial of six men accused of taking up arms against federal agents during the Bundy Ranch standoff in 2014.
But the case is not over yet.
The jury told the judge in a note Monday that it was hung on most of the charges against almost all the defendants and did not convict any of the six on conspiracy charges, viewed as a huge blow to government prosecutors.
The jury found two defendants guilty of some charges and said in a note that it was deadlocked on all charges against the other four men.
U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro sent the jurors back to deliberations to see if they could reach more verdicts.
One defendant, Gregory Burleson of Arizona, was convicted on eight charges, including threatening and assaulting a federal officer. Burleson had told a video crew after the standoff that he had come to the Bundy Ranch to kill federal agents. The video crew was made up of undercover FBI agents.
Todd Engel of Idaho was found guilty of obstruction and extortion.
Jurors began deliberating April 13 after two months of testimony involving 35 prosecution and four defense witnesses.
This is the first of three trials in the most high-profile land-use case in modern Western history, which pit a family of cattle ranchers and states-rights activists against the Bureau of Land Management.
The six men, from Arizona, Idaho and Oklahoma, are among 17 defendants charged with conspiracy, extortion assault and obstruction for helping rancher Cliven Bundy fend off a government round-up of his cattle. If convicted, they could spend the rest of their lives in prison.
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.
Bundy 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.
After the BLM abandoned the roundup, the standoff was hailed as a victory by militia members. Cliven Bundy’s sons, 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.
No arrests were made in the Bundy Ranch case until after the Oregon siege ended.
The BLM abandoned the roundup because they were afraid they were going to die, federal prosecutors told the jury. 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.
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 a stun guns.
They also said they were inspired to act by the so-called First Amendment zone officers established to cordon off anticipated protesters, which they described as anathema to free speech.
Defense lawyers attempted to cast the case as a constitutional issue and said their clients were exercising their First Amendment right to assemble and Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Navarro would not allow the defense to argue about constitutional protections to the jury.
Navarro also prevented the defense from calling a string of witnesses about what happened in the run-up to the standoff, ruling they could only testify about what happened on the final day of the standoff.
That left lawyers chipping away at the conspiracy charges, which make up the core of the government’s case. They sought to establish the six men acted independently from one another and without coordination from the Bundys.
No information was presented in court to explain what led prosecutors to file charges against the six men out of the hundreds of protesters at the Bundy Ranch. Lawyers said their clients were singled because of comments they made online and in interviews before and after the standoff.
Burleson, Richard Lovelien of Oklahoma and O. Scott Drexler, Engel, Eric Parker and Steven Stewart of Idaho are described as the least culpable of all 17 defendants.
The jury had to work through a complicated set of 37 separate jury instructions to determine the culpability of each defendant.
It had to decide if the defendants were part of a criminal conspiracy that sought to impede and injure federal officers.
It was also asked to determine if the men were guilty of assault and threatening federal officers, carrying or using a firearm in a crime of violence, obstruction of justice, interference of interstate transportation by extortion, interstate in aid of extortion and aiding and abetting.
The second trial against the principal leaders in the standoff, including Cliven, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, could start as early as June. They are being held at a correctional facility in Nevada.
Includes information from Associated Press. Return to azcentral.com for additional updates.
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