Defense in Bundy standoff trial opens up with videos
LAS VEGAS >> A federal jury got a first look Tuesday at videos of confrontations involving armed federal agents and Bundy family members that rancher Cliven Bundy’s lawyer said provided a catalyst for an April 2014 gunpoint standoff and a trial now underway in Las Vegas.
One clip that attorney Bret Whipple said spread widely on the internet showed Bundy’s sister, Margaret Huston, thrown to the ground by a federal agent after she approached the driver’s side of a vehicle involved in a U.S. Bureau of Land Management cattle round-up near the Bundy ranch.
Whipple derided an interpretation that Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre offered to the jury — that the 57-year-old Huston had to be pulled away from the front of the truck and knocked down for her own safety.
Myhre cast the 71-yearold Cliven Bundy as the leader of a conspiracy with sons Ryan and Ammon Bundy and co-defendant Ryan Payne to enlist armed militia members to force the federal agents “at the end of a gun” to abandon efforts to collect his cattle from public rangeland.
“So many different people saw injustice,” Whipple said during his opening statements in what is expected to be a four-month trial. “The government talks about the Bundys being threatening, intimidating, interfering. At the end of the day, you’re going to determine if it was a crime or not. At the end of the day, the government is accountable to we the people.”
Bundy son Ryan Bundy, who is serving as his own attorney, is expected to make an opening statement Wednesday. Federal public defenders are expected to provide a case overview for defendant Ryan Payne, a Montana man who headed a self-styled militia group dubbed Operation Mutual Aid.
Attorney Daniel Hill, representing Ammon Bundy, said he and lawyer Morgan Philpot may wait until after the prosecution rests to make an opening.
The defense maintains the four men didn’t wield weapons and didn’t conspire with anyone.
Whipple noted that no shots were fired and no one was injured in the standoff near Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Each defendant faces 15 felony counts on nine charges including conspiracy, assault and threats against federal officers, firearms counts, obstruction and extortion.