High stakes as Bundy squares off against govern­ment

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

The stakes were high as jury se­lec­tion be­gan last week in the 2014 Bundy ranch stand­off, not just for rin­gleader Cliven Bundy but also for fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors pur­su­ing a badly needed guilty verdict af­ter be­ing stif­farmed by ju­ries in Ne­vada and Ore­gon.

Mr. Bundy, 71, and three co-de­fen­dants face the pos­si­bil­ity of up to 170 years in prison if con­victed on all 15 counts, in­clud­ing con­spir­acy, as­sault, ob­struc­tion of jus­tice and firearms vi­o­la­tions for their roles in the armed con­fronta­tion over graz­ing rights with the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment near Bunkerville, Ne­vada.

Mean­while, the Jus­tice Depart­ment is seek­ing to put to rest ac­cu­sa­tions that it overcharged the Bundy de­fen­dants dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in an act of politi­cal re­tal­i­a­tion, an ac­cu­sa­tion that picked up steam af­ter pre­vi­ous jury tri­als ended in mis­tri­als or ac­quit­tals.

Carol Bundy, Cliven Bundy’s wife, said out­side the Las Ve­gas court­house that the trial amounted to her fam­ily against “an over­reach­ing govern­ment, good against evil.”

“Today my feel­ings are mixed. I’m ready for my fam­ily to have their day in court. I’m ex­cited for the truth to be told,” Mrs. Bundy said in a video posted on the Bundy Ranch page on Face­book.

The lat­est trial, the third in a se­ries in­volv­ing a to­tal of 17 de­fen­dants, fea­tures the four men deemed most cul­pa­ble in the April 2014 stand­off: Mr. Bundy, his sons Am­mon and Ryan Bundy, and Ryan Payne.

The Bundys, who have been in cus­tody in Ore­gon and Ne­vada for nearly two years and have protested their con­fine­ment, wore their red jail scrubs for the first day of jury se­lec­tion.

“My at­tire is my choice today,” Ryan Bundy said af­ter be­ing ques­tioned by the judge, The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported.

“Yeah. I think they look pretty good,” said Am­mon Bundy.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors have ar­gued that Cliven Bundy led a “mas­sive armed as­sault against fed­eral law en­force­ment,” while he has ar­gued that the 200-plus sup­port­ers who turned up in a show of protest against the BLM’s ef­fort to seize his cat­tle did so of their own vo­li­tion.

They ar­rived af­ter the agency moved to im­pound 400 head of cat­tle as a re­sult of Mr. Bundy’s re­fusal to pay $1.2 mil­lion in graz­ing fees to the fed­eral govern­ment, which he has de­scribed as a protest against pub­lic-lands pol­icy.

Not help­ing the pros­e­cu­tion are un­forced er­rors by re­lated agen­cies. The FBI has come un­der crit­i­cism from de­fense at­tor­neys and me­dia out­lets for in­fil­trat­ing the Bundy com­pound with agents pos­ing as a film crew and try­ing to goad par­tic­i­pants into mak­ing in­flam­ma­tory state­ments.

Daniel Love, the spe­cial agent in charge of the Bundy stand­off, left the BLM last month af­ter fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors found that he handed out valu­able stones held as ev­i­dence to col­leagues and con­trac­tors, used his clout to ob­tain Burn­ing Man tick­ets and deleted emails re­quested by Congress.

Two other de­fen­dants, O. Scott Drexler and Eric Parker, have gone to trial twice this year. Pros­e­cu­tors opted to try them for a third time af­ter the jury dead­locked Aug. 22 on sev­eral counts while find­ing them not guilty of most charges.

The same jury ac­quit­ted another two men, Richard Lovelien and Steven Stewart, on all counts, prompt­ing Bundy sup­port­ers to call on At­tor­ney General Jeff Ses­sions to drop the charges against the re­main­ing de­fen­dants.

Sev­eral of those in­volved in the Ne­vada show­down have en­tered into plea deals, but pros­e­cu­tors have yet to hook any of the big fish, namely the mem­bers of the Bundy fam­ily.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment’s big­gest win to date came with the jury’s split verdict in April on Greg Burleson and Todd En­gel, who were ac­quit­ted of con­spir­acy but found guilty of eight felony counts, in­clud­ing ob­struc­tion of jus­tice and in­ter­state aid in travel.

U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge Glo­ria Navarro sen­tenced the 53-year-old Burleson, who is legally blind and uses a wheelchair, to 68 years in prison for his in­volve­ment, which in­cluded bran­dish­ing a long gun and post­ing threat­en­ing anti-govern­ment mes­sages on Face­book.

Burleson was also one of those in­ter­viewed by the un­der­cover FBI film crew. Asked what would have hap­pened if fed­eral agents crossed the perime­ter sur­round­ing the ranch, he replied, “Dead bod­ies. Lit­er­ally.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Cliven Bundy led a “mas­sive armed as­sault against fed­eral law en­force­ment,” fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors say, when he was con­fronted over graz­ing rights with the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment in Ne­vada.

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