OPINION — There were a lot of us waiting in line to get into courtroom 7C at the federal courthouse in Las Vegas last week. We were all anxious to hear what Judge Gloria Navarro had decided since declaring a mistrial Dec. 20 in the case of U.S. v. Bundy, in particular the Bundy family and Ryan Payne.
At least half the people in the hallway were members of the Bundy family. Supporters and members of the media made up the rest of the crowd. Among the familiar faces, I spotted at least a half dozen of the jurors from the most recent trial.
I asked them why they chose to come. Their responses indicated that they wouldn’t have missed it and wanted to see this thing through to the end. Afterward, when asked if the judge’s dismissal of the case against the defendants was the outcome they’d hoped for, the answer was a definitive and united “yes.”
It underscored the results of three earlier trials in which jurors declined to validate the government’s claims and refused to convict. Even so, this outcome was not something that could have been predicted when the latest trial began.
The first time I sat in the courtroom in Las Vegas, I was pretty sure that I would end up having an intense dislike of Navarro.
I was aware of how she had presided over two earlier trials of defendants from the Bunkerville standoff of 2014. I knew that the defense had been so tightly bound by her instructions as to make their case practically meaningless.
However, Navarro’s handling of the trial of Cliven Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy and Ryan Payne was far more evenhanded than I expected. From Ryan Bundy’s opening statement to the cross-examination of the government’s first three witnesses, an astonishing quantity of truth was brought into the light of day.
Those truths revealed the incredible depths of deception and duplicity to which members of the Bureau of Land Management, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office were willing to go. In their haste to provoke a violent confrontation with the Bundys, a number of government agencies were discovered to be pursuing an agenda of vengeance rather than justice.
It was fascinating to watch Navarro’s growing recognition of just how badly the prosecution had been violating the rules that govern due process. When she outlined her reasons for dismissing the case last week, Navarro called out the government’s flagrant misconduct in no uncertain terms.
When she announced that a “universal sense of justice has been violated,” it was clear that the truth had finally triumphed.
I don’t know what might have changed in Navarro’s understanding or within her heart since the previous two trials, but I’m grateful she took the approach she did.
It’s no secret that throughout the trial, the Bundy family had consistently called upon their supporters to pray for Navarro as well as other members of the government’s team that their hearts would be softened. Before entering the courtroom last Monday, Ryan Bundy led those waiting in the hallway in a heartfelt prayer.
In his prayer, Bundy specifically prayed for Navarro – for her well-being and for her to be guided in her understanding. As Navarro later explained the relevant precedents and case law that supported her decision to dismiss with prejudice, I’m certain she saw many heads bowed in prayer in her courtroom.
When her decision was announced, the celebration that swept through the courtroom was mostly silent tears of joy with occasional whispers of “thank you, God” and “praise God.”
This reaction underscores a powerful spiritual dynamic that has been ever-present from the very beginning of this saga, though rarely reported on or understood by the public generally. The Bundys have placed their trust in God from the start.
I can sympathize with those who would dismiss such things because they haven’t experienced them personally. If I had not seen and experienced them firsthand for myself, I would be inclined to doubt as well.
The difficulties and pain of the past couple of years have not broken this family. They have become stronger in every way. Their faith in God has been strengthened, not diminished, by their suffering.
Their marriages and family ties have been forged in the fires of hardship. The intense heat and pressure directed at them has served to refine them like diamonds. They are battle-hardened but not bitter or hateful.
When they speak, the Bundys still speak with love but also with the conviction of people who genuinely have skin in the game and who have been willing to suffer for their beliefs.
Armchair quarterbacks simply don’t have that kind of credibility. Nor should they.
The problems of an unaccountable, overreaching government that the Bundys have fought to bring to light still exist. What more will it take before we understand this isn’t just the Bundys’ problem?
Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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