Judge says 4 month trial expected in Bundy standoff
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Trial could take four months for Nevada rancher and states’ rights figure Cliven Bundy, his two sons and one other co-defendant accused of leading a self-styled militia to prevent federal agents from removing Bundy cattle from public rangeland, a federal judge told prospective jurors on Monday.
Jury selection alone could take several days, Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro told 49 people during a first day of questioning about their backgrounds, opinions and ability to impartially decide whether Bundy, sons Ryan and Ammon Bundy, and co-defendant Ryan Payne of Montana conspired to lead an armed uprising against the government. Similar-sized groups of prospective jurors are due for questioning through Thursday.
“Although they are accused, they start trial with a clean slate,” the judge said of the defendants.
Court proceedings began with security exceptionally tight inside the federal courthouse in Las Vegas, and in the courtroom where observers are banned from having electronic devices including cellphones. A small sidewalk protest outside echoed more robust demonstrations organized by Bundy backers during two previous trials.
Those proceedings ended in April and August with prosecutors failing to gain full convictions of six defendants who had assault-style weapons with them during an April 2014 standoff involving Bundy backers, protesters and federal agents near the Nevada town of Bunkerville.
The confrontation stemmed from Cliven Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees to a federal government that he maintains has no authority over public land, including what is now Gold Butte National Monument, where he says Bundy family cows have grazed since the early 1900s.