Judge denies 11th-hour bid to dismiss charges against Nevada rancher Bundy

Remigio Civitarese
Novembre 15, 2017

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his followers were defying the rule of law by threat of violence, rather than engaging in a legal protest, when they took up arms against federal agents who had seized his cattle, a USA prosecutor told jurors on Tuesday.

But Bundy's lawyer countered that the government was at fault for escalating the conflict, and that supporters rallied to his cause because they saw him as the victim of intimidation and excess on the part of federal land managers.

Bundy, two of his sons and a fourth defendant are accused of conspiracy, assault and other charges stemming from the 2014 armed standoff, which galvanized right-wing militia groups challenging USA government authority over vast tracts of public lands in the American West. The acting US attorney for Nevada, Steven Myhre, laid out the government's case against the four men in opening statements at a trial expected to last through February, anticipating defense arguments that Bundy and supporters essentially had staged an act of patriotic civil disobedience.

The current trial is expected to take four months. Whipple noted that no shots were fired and no one was injured in the standoff near Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Two more pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for a maximum one-year prison term.

The trial will also test public land policies in Western U.S. states like Nevada.

Federal prosecutors have twice failed to win full convictions at trial of men who had guns during the tense confrontation. A magistrate judge entered not-guilty pleas for them.

The trial start was postponed twice: Once by the October 1 shooting deaths of 58 people at a Las Vegas Strip open-air concert by a man who opened fire with rapid-fire assault-style weapons from the 32nd floor of a high-rise hotel, and once by a fight about whether prosecutors properly disclosed evidence about surveillance cameras watching the Bundy homestead.

Last week, the judge denied release for Cliven Bundy and fellow defendant Ryan Payne.

Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro last week ordered the 71-year-old Bundy, son Ammon Bundy and co-defendant Ryan Payne to remain in custody.

The Bunkerville standoff was a precursor to an early 2016 protest in rural eastern OR, where Ryan and Ammon Bundy and Payne led a 41-day takeover of a federal wildlife refuge and called for the USA government to turn over public land to local control.

A federal jury in Portland refused a year ago to convict Ryan and Ammon Bundy of any crime.

The Nevada standoff led to charges for other men. A federal jury in Las Vegas refused to convict the defendants in August after they were retried on accusations that they threatened and assaulted federal agents by wielding assault weapons near Cliven Bundy's ranch.

All four men were photographed carrying assault-style weapons.

He blamed a federal land management regional supervisor, who has since been dismissed, for the conduct of cattle impoundment operation agents that attracted attention of armed protesters who answered a Bundy family call for support.

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