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A federal judge on Wednesday declared a mistrial in a criminal case against four people, including Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, over a 2014 armed standoff with U.S. government agents, and rebuked prosecutors for withholding evidence from the defense.
Navarro set a retrial date for Feb. 26, 2018, but it is uncertain if there will be a new trial. Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre said prosecutors had yet to decide whether to pursue the case. Defense lawyers will argue for charges to be dismissed at a hearing set for Jan. 8.
“We have a very strong case that this will never be tried again,” Bundy’s attorney, Bret Whipple, told reporters.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions weighed in through a Justice Department spokesman in Washington. “The attorney general takes this issue very seriously and has personally directed that an expert in the department’s discovery obligations ... examine the case and advise as to the next steps,” said the spokesman, Ian Prior.
The judge listed six types of evidence that she said prosecutors deliberately withheld before trial, including information about the presence of an FBI surveillance camera on a hill overlooking the Bundy ranch and documents about U.S. Bureau of Land Management snipers outside the ranch.
The others were maps, an FBI log with entries about snipers on standby, threat assessments that indicated the Bundys weren't violent and that the Bureau of Land Management was trying to provoke a conflict by antagonizing them and nearly 500 pages of internal affairs documents involving lead bureau special agent Dan Love, since fired from the agency.
The material, the judge found, would bolster the defense stance that defendant Ryan Payne put a call out for support because the Bundys feared they were surrounded by snipers and felt isolated in early April 2014 before the standoff with federal rangers and officers on April 12, 2014.
She also cited at least four threat assessments that indicated the Bundys likely wouldn't use violence, "would get in your face'' but not engage in a shootout, and that the Bureau of Land Management was antagonizing the family "trying to provoke a conflict.''
The threat evaluations were made by the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit, the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism unit, the FBI Nevada Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Gold Buttle Cattle Impound Risk Assessment and the Bureau of Land Management law enforcement arm between 2011 and 2015.
The judge further identified 493 pages of internal affairs documents on BLM agent Love that said there were no documented injuries to endangered desert tortoises by cattle grazing on the federal land. That's the reason the federal land agency sought to curtail the senior Bundy's grazing permit in 1993 and limit the number of cattle on public land.
The mistrial dealt a significant setback to federal prosecutors, yet they may be able to retry the defendants. Both sides were instructed to submit legal briefs by Dec. 29 on whether the government should be allowed to pursue a new trial, with oral arguments set for Jan. 8.
The judge indicated she'd make a future ruling on whether the case should be a mistrial with prejudice, meaning no future trial would be held. A new tentative trial date, however, was set for Feb. 26.
Experts and witnesses tell The Revelator that the roots of the Bundy family’s uncompromising and authoritarian approach over the use of America’s public lands can be traced to their belief in the historic Mormon entitlement to the promised land of Zion and their fringe interpretation of the U.S. Constitution first posed by a far-right Mormon writer.
originally posted by: YouSir
a reply to: Boadicea
Ummm...at the very least this whole debacle was gross government overreach...
It's good to see this case fall apart...The Bundy's should never have been antagonized and prosecuted...Lavoy Finicum Should still be alive and not murdered by the arm of corrupt government agencies...
This was a total travesty all around...I appreciate the due diligence you've personally given this subject...
I think you're giving the Feds far too much credit... they would have taken this all the way if they'd had their way... this was the last thing they wanted to happen.
Should we trust Bundy?
Personally, I am not a fan of the government but Bundy is a religious zealot.
originally posted by: starwarsisreal
a reply to: Boadicea
Well to me he's an opportunist. Be careful on who you support. There are opportunists who posed as "freedom fighters".
"Oh woe is me! Nothing I can do!!!" Or do we stand up loud and proud and point to the abuses and demand redress of our grievances???
We did "stand up" during the events. Outshouted by the MSM, their minions here, and the federal gubment. They have all the guns, the law and the Mass Media on their side.
Now that the 'protest' is ended, they don't care, we the people have been sidelined once again. If anyone tries to raise that flag again, everyone will be like meh, been there, borrring.
originally posted by: neo96
It should be dismissed with prejudice.
And what good did it do them? Naught! In the end, the truth still came out because of people who refused to give up or give in, the head agent in charge of the operation is gone thanks to lots of whistleblowers and an Inspector General investigator, and the trial has once again been declared a mistrial... and charges may very well be dropped altogether.