At trial, Nevadan cast as lawbreaker
LAS VEGAS — Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy was cast Tuesday as the leader of a conspiracy to enlist armed militia members to force federal agents, “at the end of a gun,” to abandon efforts to collect his cattle from public rangeland.
As the long-awaited trial opened in Las Vegas, acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre rejected supporters’ characterizations of the 71-year-old Bundy, sons Ryan and Ammon Bundy and co-defendant Ryan Payne as peaceful protesters and states’ rights freedom fighters.
“This case is not about protesting. This case is about breaking the law,” Myhre told a jury that convened after a one-week delay to hear a case that Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro has told them could take four months.
Each defendant faces 15 felony counts on nine charges including conspiracy, assault and threats against federal officers, firearms counts, obstruction and extortion connected to the April 12, 2014, armed standoff that led the federal Bureau of Land Management to abandon rounding up Bundy cattle.
Bundy, his sons and Payne have been jailed since early 2016, and each refused to enter a plea, saying he didn’t recognize the authority of the government. A magistrate judge entered innocent pleas for them.