Exclusive: After Bundy Trial’s Celebrated Dismissal, Fate of Remaining Defendants, Land Rights Issues Still in Question
By Mark Anderson
21st Century Wire
“I went into that place a free man and I intended to leave it as a free man.”
That’s what lifelong Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy stated to this writer upon being released from imprisonment along with his sons Ryan and Ammon, and co-defendant Ryan Payne—due to the dismissal of the charges against them in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas.
The elder Bundy, jubilant over the fact that his ordeal and that of his family and supporters is essentially over, added with a hearty laugh that he was a bit jaded from giving nonstop press interviews in the wake of federal Judge Gloria Navarro’s Jan. 8 ruling to approve Ryan Payne’s motion to dismiss the case.
Cliven, a constitutionalist whose family is well-versed in the nation’s charter, added that, under Article III, judges can hold office only during periods of good behavior. “Good behavior is when our judges are in tune with the Constitution. When you’ve got judges like I had in my case—abridging the Constitution—nobody holds them accountable,” he also told this writer, for an earlier American Free Press story.
What mainly prompted Judge Navarro to dismiss this latest trial—with prejudice—was that federal agents and prosecutors withheld key evidence from the defense. “With prejudice,” according to longtime Bundy-trial observer and legal expert Roger Roots, J.D., Ph.D., means the government would have to seek a new indictment to retry these defendants, which would be double-jeopardy and therefore is highly unlikely to happen. While a government appeal of the dismissal cannot be absolutely ruled out, it seems quite remote at this juncture.
Federal prosecutors had feverishly tried to nail the defendants—19 of them initially indicted under 16 counts—for resisting and protesting an attempted but failed impoundment of Cliven’s cattle by armed Bureau of Land Management and FBI agents in the “Bunkerville standoff” in Clark County, Nevada in April of 2014. The impoundment attempt made world headlines as scores of supporters, some of whom were armed in the open-carry state, showed up that spring from across the nation and stood with the Bundys. No shots were fired by either side and the feds eventually backed down.
OTHER DEFENDANTS’ SITUATIONS
Not that things have gone well for the defense across the board. Defendant Gregory Burleson of Arizona did get 68 years and co-defendant Todd Engel, of Idaho, whose sentencing is pending, conceivably could get up to 18 years if the government gets its way. Burleson was even wheelchair-bound and reportedly losing his eyesight when sentenced.
Pete Santilli, who until recently was a co-defendant in Cliven’s trial, was given a plea agreement and reportedly has returned to Ohio to resume his work as an internet radio host, amid certain court-ordered conditions. Although he’ll likely get credit for jail-time served, he’s supposed to be sentenced this spring.
Officially, there’s another trial pending involving defendants Mel and Dave Bundy (two more of Cliven’s sons), Joseph O’Shaughnessy and Jason Woods. But Roots understands a dismissal is being sought.
Moreover, defendants Blaine Cooper, Eric Parker and O. Scott Drexler copped pleas and are awaiting spring sentencings. Additional defendants who took plea agreements are Jerry DeLemus, Brian Cavalier and Micah McGuire.
Jim Lambley, owner of KSDZ-FM “The Twister,” in Nebraska, has been reporting on this case the most of any single licensed broadcast-media outlet. He agreed with this writer’s observation that it appears the government committed an especially grave miscarriage of justice in the way it handled the now-legendary series of “Bundy” show trials starting in February 2017 to the present.
“The government needs to write some checks because it stole the lives of these people for two years,” Lambley commented, regarding how prosecutors dragged out this affair over nearly two years based on rather vague and redundant conspiracy, obstruction and weapons charges, among other charges, that ultimately proved weak.
The dismissal of the trial of Cliven, Ammon and the two Ryans followed Judge Navarro’s Dec. 20, 2017, decision to declare a mistrial. That alone in the eyes of many was a stunning development in the saga of the elder Nevada rancher whose unwavering devotion to principle, like that of his sons and supporters, represents in the minds of many a repudiation of the arbitrary exercise of federal power, particularly heavy-handed federal control over vast tracts of land in the American West, where tortoises and other wildlife seem to have rights akin to those of humans.
OF TORTOISES, MEN & TYRANTS
Even the mainstream publication Newsweek reported in May 2014: “In 1994, [the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] acknowledged in its Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan that the ‘extremely controversial’ question of whether cattle harmed tortoise populations was not settled. In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a report that the evidence for the harm done by cattle was ‘not overwhelming.’ William Boarman, the biologist who wrote the report, said he was not aware of subsequent studies showing a strong link.”
And as Americans for Limited Government recently reported in the just-released Jan. 15-22 edition of American Free Press: “The desert tortoise was abundant decades ago when the cattle population was much [greater] and the range was overgrazed. Ironically, as BLM restrictions on cattle grazing grew stricter, the desert tortoise population declined. The evidence that cattle are detrimental to the desert tortoise was so weak that two judges ruled in favor of [Cliven] Bundy’s neighbors who had sued to stop the BLM’s efforts to drive their cattle off the range. But the BLM under the Clinton administration . . . tightened regulations on the ranchers and ultimately succeeded in removing their cattle from the range. Incredibly, while the federal government continues to try to remove the relatively few remaining cattle from Clark County, it continues to protect the common raven—which is not at all endangered—even though it regularly devours young tortoises.”
The April 2014 impoundment attempt was said to have been ordered over Cliven not paying grazing fees, but pernicious wildlife regulations on that public land clearly played a role. At any rate, Cliven maintains that federal jurisdiction was never established over Clark County in the area’s unique history. Writing on LewRockwell.com in an article that provides considerable additional background information on the overall Bundy affair, Roots recalled:
In 2013 the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) obtained federal court orders authorizing the agency to “seize and remove to impound” hundreds of Cliven Bundy’s cattle on the public ranges around Bunkerville, Nevada. The agency interpreted these court orders broadly, and descended on the area in April 2014 with some 200 body-armor-wearing agents, semiautomatic weapons, sniper teams, undercover informants, and surveillance cameras aimed at the Bundy residence.
The BLM brought more than corrals and horse trailers. They brought backhoes, dump trucks and earth-moving equipment to tear up water lines and other infrastructure that had been built by Bundy and his ancestors over decades. Defying county officials, the federal officers chose calving season—the very time when cows and newborn calves are most physically weak and vulnerable—to execute the court orders. They orchestrated a para-militarized roundup operation using helicopters to terrify the cattle into stampeding to the point of exhaustion in extreme heat. At least 40 cows either died from the ordeal or were shot by BLM employees and contractors.
Throughout several trials and numerous hearings concerning the Bundy case, Judge Navarro was believed to be unsympathetic to the defendants, yet when dismissed Cliven and company’s trial, she reiterated that prosecutors willfully withheld exculpatory evidence from defense lawyers. That’s what tipped the scales. She referred to it as “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct” while also declaring: “The court finds that the universal sense of justice has been violated,” inferring that the government’s misdeeds in this case were legion.
That’s evidently true, and those misdeeds transcended the courtroom. Marooning the defendants in jail for so long, of course, denied them a fair and speedy trial as the Constitution requires. And Ammon and Ryan were grossly humiliated when they were subjected to deep-cavity strip searches every time they were transferred from their jail cells to the U.S. District Court. The government even imposed solitary confinement at times. Given the conduct of their jailers, you’d think that Cliven and company already had been convicted and sentenced to languish in some surreal dungeon.
Asked if Cliven, his sons and the others had indeed been political prisoners as Cliven claimed—given that they were jailed for what they believe and who they are—Roots replied, “If they had been left-wingers they would never have been looking at such ridiculous charges. The thing about Cliven and the others is that they provided real resistance with real constitutional principles.”
Crucial remaining matters also include the Las Vegas Review Journal’s motion to try and force the federal government to open all its files. If the motion succeeds, it could reveal whether illegal secret court hearings were held and, among many other things, provide more information on federal snipers and surveillance cameras in the vicinity of the standoff and the Bundy homestead—despite denials by the prosecution about such things.
Speaking to this writer, Cliven summarized: “They tried to ruin my ranch, my heritage and my posterity. But we’re in the cattle business and we intend to stay there. We’ve always been producers, producing great beef for America.”
READ MORE BUNDY RANCH NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Bundy Ranch Files
SUPPORT 21WIRE – SUBSCRIBE & BECOME A MEMBER @21WIRE.TV
21st Century Wire is an alternative news agency designed to enlighten, inform and educate readers about world events which are not always covered in the mainstream media.