Mistrial announced in Bundy case

In this April 5, 2014, file photo, Cliven Bundy stands at the Bundy ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada | Photo by John Locher /Las Vegas Review-Journal via Associated Press, St. George News

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A U.S. judge in Nevada declared a mistrial Wednesday in the case against a states’ rights figure, his two sons and another man accused of leading a 2014 armed standoff with federal agents during a cattle grazing dispute.

Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro in Las Vegas dismissed a jury seated last month for the long-awaited trial of Cliven Bundy, his sons Ryan and Ammon Bundy and self-styled Montana militia leader Ryan Payne.

It is the latest in a string of failed prosecutions in Nevada and Oregon against those who have opposed federal control of vast swaths of land in the American West.

Jurors in Portland, Oregon, acquitted the two Bundy sons of taking over a U.S. wildlife refuge in Oregon for more than a month in early 2016 amid calls for the U.S. government to turn over public land to local control.

In the Nevada case, Navarro faulted federal prosecutors for failing to turn over all evidence to defense attorneys, including records about the conduct of FBI and Bureau of Land Management agents during the standoff.

“The government is obligated to disclose all evidence that might be favorable” to the defense, the judge said.

The case stemmed from an armed confrontation that capped a decadeslong dispute over Cliven Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees. The 71-year-old rancher says his family has grazed cattle for more than a century in the area and insists public land belongs to states, not the U.S. government.

Government agents began rounding up his animals. The four on trial were accused of enlisting armed gunmen to force government agents to abandon the effort.

“A mistrial is a very bad result for the government,” said Ian Bartrum, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, law professor who has followed the case closely.

Bartrum had cast the trial as a test of whether U.S. authorities could enforce their own land policy in Western states where the government owns or controls vast expanses.

“It looks even worse because it isn’t the sort of jury nullification we’ve seen before, but actual incompetence (or worse) by the prosecution,” Bartrum said in an email. “It certainly erodes a lot of confidence in the federal government’s motives.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre had no immediate answer about whether prosecutors would retry the case. If so, the Bundys and Payne still would face 15 felony charges including assault and threats against federal officers, firearms counts, obstruction and extortion.

Prosecutors also failed to win full convictions against others at the tense confrontation near Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Six men who acknowledged carrying assault-style weapons faced a trial and a retrial. Two were acquitted, two were convicted of some charges and two are free after pleading guilty to misdemeanors to avoid a third trial. None was found guilty of a conspiracy charge.

In the case against the Bundys, the judge hinted last week that trouble was afoot. She sent the jury home to review sealed documents following closed-door hearings over complaints about the conduct of FBI and Bureau of Land Management agents during the standoff.

Jurors got a glimpse of the claims when Ryan Bundy, who represented himself, spoke at opening statements about seeing government snipers and surveillance cameras positioned on hilltops surrounding his family home in the days before armed supporters answered his family’s calls for help.

A whistleblower memo by a lead U.S. Bureau of Land Management investigator that was released last week alleges widespread bad judgment, bias and misconduct, as well as “likely policy, ethical and legal violations among senior and supervisory staff” in the days leading up to the standoff.

The memo said agents who planned and oversaw the cattle roundup mocked and displayed clear prejudice against the Bundys, their supporters and Mormons.

The investigator, Larry Wooten, said he was removed from the investigation last February after he complained to the U.S. attorney’s office in Nevada.

The judge freed the Bundy sons and Payne to house arrest during the trial after nearly two years in jail. Cliven Bundy refused the judge’s offer, with his lawyer saying the patriarch was holding out for acquittal.

Written by KEN RITTER, Associated Press

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

28 Comments

  • McMurphy December 20, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    No retrial. How long has Bundy been locked up without a conviction?

    • Chris December 20, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      not long enough considering how much he has stolen from the American taxpayer.

      • Lastdays December 20, 2017 at 7:39 pm

        Stolen from taxpayers ? Ha, you have very little knowledge of this situation.
        The BLM has made up some dollar amount that they “ claim “ Cliven owes them.
        The BLM also claims they have some kind of jurisdiction over Cliven and his cattle operation.
        This is the same BLM who claims Cliven is a Terrorist and the most dangerous criminal the Feds have ever had in custody.
        Now, with the latest evidence presented against the BLM and their Mafia style operation they are running, We now know the BLM are obviously the Terrorists and Cliven is truly the Patriot we have always known him and his family to be.
        More evidence will come out and the real dangerous criminals employed by the Feds will soon be behind bars.
        Truth always wins out.

      • desertgirl December 21, 2017 at 11:25 am

        Ah Chris, another Big Brother lover. The government and you are the thieves.

  • Kyle L. December 20, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Right On!!!! I love to hear happy endings to David and Goliath stories.

  • bikeandfish December 20, 2017 at 7:02 pm

    Its unfortunate how incompetently the federal government and now prosecutors have handled the Bundy situation. He has mooched off of federal land for decades with impunity and they surely could have found a legal, ethical venue to properly deal with his behavior. Instead it seems like they mismanaged the response at every opportunity the last few years. Reading the details has been discouraging.

    Citizens need to be held accountable when they intentionally break the law but so do federal employees that act inappropriately.

    I hate to say it but at this point the prosecutors are best to not retry this case. They have had their chance to prove their case and failed. The Bundy’s should be able to move on if the federal prosecutor’s don’t have a viable case.

    • Kyle L. December 20, 2017 at 8:16 pm

      Maybe your attitude would change if the feds made you pay every time you took your bike for a ride on federal land or every time you walked on federal land to fish. Stop being such a pawn. Get a softer bike seat and grow a pair!

      • John December 20, 2017 at 11:17 pm

        bikeandfish, the total contradiction to any reality in this obvious violation of a ranchers rights to use the land as his family has for years,,you are such an obvious tool , there is no way you have any clue as to the legality of the use of the land by the Bundys. Again you are wrong ! It will be settled in the courts. The Bundys will win.. You are a communist and your solution is always more government control, give it up ! We ain’t buying your crap !

        • bikeandfish December 21, 2017 at 8:44 am

          Oh John, there actually is a strong possibility I have the working knowledge given my field is resource management. The illegal land-use activities of the Bundy’s have been settled by courts for decades. Their trial now is about the standoffs and it appears the feds don’t have a case, either because they botched their prosecution or handling of the incident.

          The US Constitution and state constitutions all make federal land ownership and therefor management clear. The Bundy’s are clear examples of citizens illegally mooching off federal land.

          • desertgirl December 21, 2017 at 11:29 am

            lol ‘resource management’, another communist/socialist tag phrase and job. Feel fairly sure the founding fathers did not intend for the constitution to be stretched out and raped by you or anyone else; the Feds have zero business owning 60 70 and 80 percent of a state, Mr. Big Brother PC child.

          • bikeandfish December 21, 2017 at 12:56 pm

            Desetgirl,

            You have no clue what you are talking about with regards to resource management. Unlike you, I know its history (civilians, hunters, farmers created early conservation management and still inform it today). You bandy phrases like socialist and communist so loosely they have no meaning. It simply is a petty insult for ideas you disagree with. If you dislike the Property Clause then elect officials to change it, thats how a republic works. Until then the feds have broad power to own federal lands and western states recognized that when they joined the union.

        • bikeandfish December 21, 2017 at 8:45 am

          “The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; “

          • blueford December 21, 2017 at 10:32 am

            In 1934, Congress passed the Taylor Grazing Act (48 Stat 1269, “Act of June 28, 1934” codified at 43 U.S.C. 315 et seq) “to stop injury to public grazing lands by preventing over-grazing and soil deterioration, to provide for orderly use, improvement and development, to stabilize the livestock industry dependent upon the public range.” The Act applied to remaining unreserved public domain lands, managed by the BLM, which had not yet been offered for disposal:

            First clause of Act reads; “…in order to promote the highest use of public lands pending its final disposal, the Secretary of the Interior is authorized…”

            Section I includes language to the effect that:

            “Nothing in this sub-chapter shall be construed in any way…as limiting or restricting the power or authority of any State as to matters within its jurisdiction.”

            The original bill, H.R. 6462, that was reported out of the Public Lands Committee, reproduced verbatim in the March 10, 1934 Report No. 903 to the Committee of the Whole House, and subsequently approved by the House, included the following amendment:

            And provided further, That in such orders, and in administering this Act, rights to the use of water for mining, agricultural, manufacturing, or other purposes, vested and accrued and which are recognized and acknowledged by the local customs, laws, and decisions of the courts, shall be maintained and protected in the possessors and owners thereof, and, so far as it is consistent with the purposes of this Act, grazing rights similarly recognized and acknowledged shall be adequately safeguarded.” [House hearing record p.126 as cited in Frederick W. Obermiller, “Did Congress Intend To Recognize Grazing Rights? An Alternative Perspective on the Taylor Grazing Act,” The Grazer, No. 185, December, 1995, Extension Service, Corvallis, Oregon.]

            Bikeandfish, Yes your correct but so are the Bundy Family in that that the state has jurisdiction to its land within its borders. “Nothing in this sub-chapter shall be construed in any way…as limiting or restricting the power or authority of any State as to matters within its jurisdiction”.

            The real issue is that the land that the Bundy had grazing rights too was the same land that Mr. Harry Reid had wanted to sell the mineral rights of. He wanted to sell the rights to over sea investors like Hillary sold Russia the rights to uranium. That mountain range in Nevada has a lot of Gold, Silver, and other minerals. Its more valuable than herding Cattle. But that does not give the government a heavy hand in getting what it wants.

          • bikeandfish December 21, 2017 at 10:43 am

            The critical element is “jurisdiction”, which is defined by each states enabling act upon admission to the Union.
            There are other interpretations, like those during the Sagebrush Rebellions, but they have failed legal tests thus far.

            Don’t have a working knowledge of mineral extraction in region. Wouldn’t shock me if there are competing interests at play though.

      • bikeandfish December 20, 2017 at 11:51 pm

        Federal land is cutthroat rates compared to private land for grazing.

        I pay for federal land all the time: taxes, annual parks pass, campgrounds, federal duck stamp, permit fees. Most of us who recreate on federal lands have been paying use fees since the late nineties.

        Grazing is a commercial activity which is permitted, like others. Extraction companies pay bids for use. Commercial outfitters pay user fees. The list goes on.

        So tell me again how hard the Bundy’s have it?

        Not sure what testicles have to do with a conversation about basic land management practices. Its all natural resources 101 that has been used for almost a century.

        Unless of course you are going down the petty insult route like so many others who can’t defend their statements.

        • bikeandfish December 21, 2017 at 1:03 am

          Oops, meant cheap rates and used an opposite term.

  • aaron December 20, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    Constitutionally speaking, the feds have no business in the business of even owning state land. That land belongs solely to the states to begin with.

    • Lee Sanders December 20, 2017 at 11:06 pm

      How can you say that the land should and/or ever has belonged to the State? It never has belonged to the State since the Federal government took it away from the Indians. It has always been BLM or the predecessors agencies to the BLM. The 1800’s Federal government had long been trying to encourage westward settlement by legislation such as the Homestead Act of 1862, Railroad Land Grants and several other instrumental legislative actions such as the Desert Lands Act. As part of the Federal land giveaways States were given grants of sections of land, in some states called school sections, in some called SITLA, or School Institutional Trust Land Administration holdings. These, except for in a very few instances, such as lands set aside for universities, State Parks, etc., are the only formerly Federal lands in most western states. Edward T. Taylor, a Representative from Colorado, introduced a bill known as the Taylor Bill in 1934 which became known as the Taylor Grazing Act. This bill set up the Grazing Bureau (or Service), earlier known as the Division of Grazing, in the Department of Interior to administer the range lands. Its responsibilities were to enforce the Act, which leased public lands to farmers and ranchers for grazing. In addition to (below market value) fees, lease holders were required to install certain structures such as water facilities and sometimes fencing. The Grazing Service was merged with the General Land Office in 1946 to form the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) through a bill signed by President Harry S. Truman. With the exception of the SITLA lands scattered throughout the West, the lands in contention have never belonged to the States and hopefully never will. It is the opinion of many who have studied the history of this current controversy that folks, such as the Bundy’s still remember the days of the open range when they (their ancestors) could graze that open range free of taxes and grazing fees and feel that they should be able to continue those free benefits. The courts have decided that it doesn’t work that way anymore. I’m also wondering where in the Constitution it says that the Federal government shouldn’t own or manage land?

    • bikeandfish December 21, 2017 at 12:17 am

      So I’m guessing you can explain how the SCOTUS has been misinformed for 100+ years regarding the “property clause” and the common conclusion that federal land ownership is “without limitation”. Or the way in which most Western states (all?) commonly signed away rights to lands in their “enabling acts”. Would love to see an explanation of how those are so wrong. Or how many AGs in states with legislative claims like yours have concluded the federal government is within their constitutional authority.

      Their is a reason modern Sagebrush Rebellion folks try to pass federal legislation to dispossess lands within their state boundaries. Its because that’s the only constitutional option that exists.

      • desertgirl December 21, 2017 at 11:32 am

        SCOTUS has been wrong many times. They are human not some body of perfection. You keep proving how inept and wrong headed the government can be and far too often is, much to the detriment of individual freedom. Your group think stink like a rotten fish.

        • bikeandfish December 21, 2017 at 12:49 pm

          You are free to your opinion but its inconsistent with the Constitution and juriprudence in this case so you don’t have much of a rational argument regarding the case. And yes, the federal government can step on individual freedom and liberty and we have legal recourse for that.

          Thanks for another junior high insult.

  • aaron December 20, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    Constitutionally speaking, the feds have no business in the business of even owning state land

    • Lee Sanders December 22, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      Again, I ask, Aaron, how do you believe that the federally owned and managed lands are “state land”? It never has been State land.

  • DRT December 21, 2017 at 8:31 am

    Right or wrong about the feds owning and controlling land, is the obvious incompetence of federal prosecutors. Our tax dollars are supporting these clowns that wouldn’t last thirty days in private practice.
    Any body else see the waste here, or am I totally out of line?

    • bikeandfish December 21, 2017 at 10:38 am

      Its sounds like an incompetent prosecution at best and even an ethical breach if they didn’t turn over required evidence during discovery. Sadly, it sounds like the BLM may have acted inappropriately during the standoff as well.

  • jaybird December 21, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    The nimrods around here really think they have a say in what the federal government does with the land. Look @ Bears Ears and ask yourself what you will do when an Oklahoma mining company comes in and you live downstream. Nothing, that is what, nothing and you will be drinking and smelling dust from its factories.

    • bikeandfish December 23, 2017 at 6:15 pm

      That’s a random rant even for this site. What does any of that have to do with the Bundy situation?

  • Kyle L. December 22, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    bike and fish should take his bike and go fishing in some private lake that only has environmentally safe fish that havce been tested to be safe for human consumption, and that the water has been tested by at least three federal agencies to make sure that the water is ok to have fish live in. Also he should make sure that he parks at least fifty miles away and only uses designated bike trails into and out of the location. I would hate for the fish to be polluted by the cars. He should use only vegetable based lubricants for his bike and drink only spring water that is packaged in biodegradable paper. He should make sure to not eat meat for at least two weeks before the ride because it take longer for meat to brake down if he has to take a dump. He should make sure to rake the bike tracks on the way back out so that he does not disturb the wildlife. I would hate to confuse a bear with the tracks of a bike. He should make sure that he brings all ashes from is fire with him along with the rocks that where scared by the fire so as not to confuse the wildlife. If he does all this then he can truly be the the liberal he clams to be.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.