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Charges Against Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy and His Sons Tossed from Federal Court

Judge cites "flagrant prosecutorial misconduct" on the government's part.

The federal government's long efforts to get Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and members of his family behind bars seems to have come to an end, as U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro today dismissed with prejudice all federal charges against Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan, and co-defendant Ryan Payne. (The "with prejudice" part means the government can't just try again on the same charges.)

Gage Skidmore/Foter.comGage Skidmore/Foter.com

Judge Navarro complained of "flagrant prosecutorial misconduct" in the case against the Bundys, including violating the Brady rule regarding withholding potentially exculpatory evidence from the Bundys legal team.

This decision comes after the same judge last month declared a mistrial in the case; the government was trying to get a new trial launched. As Fox News reported, "Navarro had suspended the trial earlier and warned of a mistrial when prosecutors released information after a discovery deadline. Overall, the government was late in handing over more than 3,300 pages of documents. Further, some defense requests for information that ultimately came to light had been ridiculed by prosecutors as 'fantastical' and a 'fishing expedition.'"

What Navarro objected to withholding most, as reported by Arizona Republic:

  • Records about surveillance at the Bundy ranch;
  • Maps about government surveillance;
  • Records about the presence of government snipers;
  • FBI logs about activity at the ranch in the days leading up to standoff;
  • Law-enforcement assessments dating to 2012 that found the Bundys posed no threat;
  • Internal affairs reports about misconduct by Bureau of Land Management agents.

"Failure to turn over such evidence violates due process," Navarro said last month. "A fair trial at this point is impossible."

Former Acting Nevada U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre, leading the prosecution, wrote all the above off as either inadvertent or insignificant error, not malfeasance, on the government's part.

The charges against the four men were all related to actions during the 2014 standoff on Bundy's Nevada ranch over his failure to pay fees to the Bureau of Land Management they insisted he owed.

The four men were specifically charged in 2016 with "one count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, one count of conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer, four counts of using and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, two counts of assault on a federal officer, two counts of threatening a federal law enforcement officer, three counts of obstruction of the due administration of justice, two counts of interference with interstate commerce by extortion, and one count of interstate travel in aid of extortion. The indictment also alleges five counts of criminal forfeiture which upon conviction would require forfeiture of property derived from the proceeds of the crimes totaling at least $3 million, as well as the firearms and ammunition possessed and used on April 12, 2014."

The Arizona Republic goes on to note Navarro didn't even mention other disturbing accusations against the Bundy prosecution, including:

another document turned over to the defense in December...that raises more criticism of the BLM's conduct and use of force during the standoff.

A federal investigator alleged in a Nov. 27 memo to the assistant U.S. attorney general that prosecutors in the Bundy ranch standoff trial covered up misconduct by law-enforcement agents who engaged in "likely policy, ethical and legal violations."

In an 18-page memo, Special Agent Larry Wooten said he "routinely observed ... a widespread pattern of bad judgment, lack of discipline, incredible bias, unprofessionalism and misconduct" among agents involved in the 2014 standoff.

He said his investigation indicated federal agents used excessive force and committed civil-rights and policy violations.

James Bovard, a lifelong chronicler of federal police power abuse, wrote in USA Today last week about many of the government's seemingly malicious missteps in the prosecution, including that:

The feds charged the Bundys with conspiracy in large part because the ranchers summoned militia to defend them after they claimed that FBI snipers had surrounded their ranch. Justice Department lawyers scoffed at this claim in prior trials involving the standoff but newly-released documents confirm that snipers were in place prior to the Bundy's call for help.

The feds also belatedly turned over multiple threat assessments which revealed that the Bundys were not violent or dangerous, including an FBI analysis that concluded that BLM was "trying to provoke a conflict" with the Bundys. As an analysis in the left-leaning Intercept observed, federal missteps in this case "fueled longstanding perceptions among the right-wing groups and militias that the federal government is an underhanded institution that will stop at nothing to crush the little guy and cover up its own misdeeds."

The Associated Press (via Chicago Tribune) noted the larger issues raised by the prosecution, and this dismissal:

Gregg Cawley, a University of Wyoming professor who writes about land protests in the West, said a collapse of the case would be seen by many as a victory for states' rights.

"But it would not actually be a clean victory," Cawley said. "Conspiracy is very hard to prove. The Bundys got acquitted in Oregon. But if charges in Nevada are dropped, there's no resolution to the question.

"It could be seen as criminals going free on a technicality, rather than an actual vindication."

But when the "technicalities" are related to the government's apparent willingness to violate principles of justice to get people who defy them, the message seems clear nonetheless.

The Oregonian has a detailed account of the federal prosecutors' failed attempt to excuse their behavior, including many original documents.

The Intercept reported earlier in the year on the FBI's disturbing practice of pretending to be a documentary journalism team in order to gather info on the Bundys' supporters.

Among the miscarriage of justice against the Bundys and their allies was federal agents' murder (and lying about it) of LaVoy Finicum, one of the occupiers of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge on the part of Bundy supporters. The feds had already failed to get convictions against many others involved in that occupation.

Others still remain under prosecution related to the Bundy standoff. Ryan Bundy after today's dismissal called for their charges to be dropped as well, reported the Las Vegas Review Journal. "The government has acted wrongly from the get-go," Bundy said.

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  • thisismarcusxavier||

    Will any of the government attorneys be censured, disbarred and/or fired? You better believe they will not. And so this kind of abuse of prosecutorial power will continue.

  • Cyto||

    Hey, the courts have already spoken on this. Even after decades of repeated Brady violations and outright framing of innocent people, a prosecutor's office is immune from action.

    For those in doubt, google Harry Connick (Sr., not the crooner). That's pretty much a direct quote from the supreme court.

  • PaulTheBeav||

    They should go to jail.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    I believe in 7 x punishment they tried to hang on the citizen. Get biblical on they ass.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Does it actually do any good to report spam here?

  • Vernon Depner||

    Only if you brought enough to share with everyone.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    You won't see any big playup of this in the mainstream media either.

    It doesn't fit their narrative template.

  • Vernon Depner||

    All I'm seeing is memes about how this is an example of "white privilege".

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I bet those protesters who plead guilty instead of fighting the feds are kicking themselves.

    If you are not guilty of a crime, fight it. Its the last thing they'll be expecting.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Most people simply don't have the resources to do that. The feds have unlimited money to spend on prosecutions and they'll bleed you dry if you don't have lots of money for fighting back.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    As an analysis in the left-leaning Intercept observed, federal missteps in this case "fueled longstanding perceptions among the right-wing groups and militias that the federal government is an underhanded institution that will stop at nothing to crush the little guy and cover up its own misdeeds."

    Yes, facts often do support themselves.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Whites can't be little guys. Duh.

  • BYODB||

    I'd like to see the BMI of the BLM...

  • Curt||

    "Justice Department lawyers scoffed at this claim in prior trials involving the standoff but newly-released documents confirm that snipers were in place prior to the Bundy's call for help."

    Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    "Among the miscarriage of justice against the Bundys and their allies was federal agents' murder (and lying about it) of LaVoy Finicum, one of the occupiers of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge on the part of Bundy supporters".
    Brian, thanks for printing that. For those that saw the video its hard to call what federal agents did something else besides murder.

    Even the Oregon state police officers would not back up the FBI agents who fired first and without justification which tells you a lot.

  • Cyto||

    It is amazing how many times things that are ridiculed as delusional fantasy are turning out to be truth these days. This group was widely and authoritatively derided as a bunch of conspiracy theory nutters because they said they were under surveillance and being threatened by government snipers. Turns out it was true.

    Just last fall, the president elect - of all people - was lampooned as an unadulterated nutcase for daring to suggest that Trump Tower was being wiretapped. Turns out.... it was true.

    Pick any one of the dozens of police shootings where the victim posed a threat (before the camera footage showed up). ..

    Makes me have two thoughts.

    First: I wonder how much crazy conspiracy theory stuff was actually true but we'll never find out because there wasn't a ubiquitous recording of data in the past. We found that out a lot of the McCarthy persecuted were in fact communist agents after the fall of the Soviet Union. But what else is out there never to be learned?

    Second: This had better not be leading up to the flat earthers being right. Because I really can't handle that. It is bad enough that Trump was right about being spied on. I don't need to have to learn a whole new physics too.

  • LibertarianJRT||

    Moving the plausibility needle on conspiracy theories seems to be the order of the day.

    Wait until they realize people don't actually need to eat vegetables.

  • Conchfritters||

    You forgot the UFOs. I didn't need to see gun camera footage from an F-18 in 2012 to know Art Bell was right 30 fucking years ago.

  • NYC2AZ||

    I remember in the late 1990's (98 I think), my father talking about ECHELON (early NSA mass surveillance program that was used to circumvent all sorts of domestic spying laws) and I thought he was bat shit crazy. Turns out some of those late night AM radio conspiracy segments are true. Not much surprises me after Snowden.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    If you're going to commit various conspiracies, nothing is more helpful than having a media that just reflexively dismisses conspiracy theories without ever investigating them.

    Even the epitomic conspiracy theory, the "black helicopters", had a good deal of truth to it. Special forces were doing urban combat training in abandoned inner city buildings, and dark helicopters were involved. These days they've got their own fake city out in the desert to train in, so you don't get black helicopter sightings anymore.

  • JoeBlow123||

    Big claims need big evidence, it is rational to distrust conspiracy theories.

  • Procyon Rotor||

    (Dis)trust, but verify.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Exactly, the problems begin when, instead of insisting on evidence, you just dismiss them without listening.

  • SIV||

    Soave and ENB are going to be pissed if this rightwing shit costs them a cocktail party invite.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Slate hardest hit.

  • Brendan||

    Farkers not too happy either
    http://www.fark.com/comments/9.....-prejudice

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Fark posts a lot of damned funny articles, but when it drifts into politics, they are some of the most clueless naive snowflakes on this earth.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Fark is a website who's time has passed. They are raging assholes these days.

  • Morbo||

    And coming from a commenter on this website, that's saying something.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Let's not pretend Reason ever had a time.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    another document turned over to the defense in December...that raises more criticism of the BLM's conduct and use of force during the standoff.

    They were probably hoping for another Waco where all the evidence would... go up in smoke.

  • BYODB||

    I had the same thought...

  • Ron||

    to many cameras on scene this time unlike Waco where they were able to keep the media far away

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Cameras were on their way at Waco, the Michigan Militia was organizing an unarmed march with cameras running, to go in and document the condition inside the compound. (So that they couldn't pull a Ruby Ridge, and create evidence to confirm their case.) They were just going to walk up in an unarmed column, and dare the feds to open fire on live TV.

    I've long thought that was why it went from a standoff to urgently terminating the Davidians, so suddenly. They had to finish up before the MM could arrive.

  • Ron||

    interesting I didn't know that and the media probably didn't report it either. Of course we all know they wanted a showdown because they could have arrested him in town a few days before

  • Brett Bellmore||

    To be fair, the militia weren't going to tell the media until the last minute, in hope of surprising the feds. Then it all fell apart when the place went up in flames.

    I only know about it because I got an invite. (Which I turned down because I figured they'd probably fire on us anyway.)

  • Leader Desslok||

    What does Waco stand for? What A Cook Out.

  • swaged||

    I'm kind of saddened by the large number of people who are willing to overlook the prosecutorial malfeasance because of the politics involved.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    There is no 'excessive use of force' against gun owners.

  • Cyto||

    Look. When a guy clearly reaches toward his side after being shot in the side.... what are you supposed to do? Better to be exonerated by one perfunctory investigation than carried by six....

  • Hank Phillips||

    1776 "Mock trial" 2016 "Perfunctory investigation" I don't like where this is headed...

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Exactly. The controllers were calling for blood on this one. They couldn't believe the FBI wasn't smashing skulls over this affront to the power of the state. Sick fucks.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    snipers were in place prior to the Bundy's call for help.

    There were no dogs, children or pregnant women so I think the Bundys were probably safe.

  • Fooseven||

    "soft targets"

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    The nice thing about pregnant women is you can rather easily get a two-for-one. I think that gets you like 10 extra high-fives.

  • LibertarianJRT||

    Arlington Road. Great film.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Welp. The Bundys better not pick a fight with the Feds again. The Feds tried it the long and slow way, and it didn't work out. Next time they won't try to play nice and will let them be the martyrs they want to be.

  • Harvard||

    Remembering those tv news films of Bunby supporters taking positions on that overpass armed to the teeth, I'd suggest the Federalies bring the armored hummers.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Well, that depends on whether or not the Feds are willing to deploy weaponized drones or not. I mean, we have the tech. If you're not concerned about survivors, we can send in a robot and slaughter every man, woman and child without ever risking a friendly life.

    So far, the US has been unwilling to deploy such tools domestically.

    So far.

  • Cyto||

    +1 phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Meh. All the Bundys need to do is call force fields and the Feds can't do anything to them.

  • BYODB||

    ...that we know of...

    ^_-

  • Brett Bellmore||

    They used a robot at Ruby Ridge, as I recall. Had a phone on it, and a remote controlled shotgun pointed at where you'd have to stand to pick up the phone.

    Strangely, Weaver refused to answer the phone...

  • Lawn Darts||

    " including an FBI analysis that concluded that BLM was "trying to provoke a conflict" with the Bundys"
    Imagine! Dan Love trying to provoke conflict!?

    I should read Lavoy Finicum's book: "Only by Blood and Suffering"...

  • techgump||

    Yet another example of people within Gov't breaking countless laws, to stop purported law breakers, and paying zero price for it, whilst ruining the lives of the citizens they purport to serve. It's tiring. Gov't and it's respective "justice" is nothing more than a bad joke.

  • Sevo||

    "fueled longstanding perceptions among the right-wing groups and militias that the federal government is an underhanded institution that will stop at nothing to crush the little guy and cover up its own misdeeds."

    That perception is not nearly as limited as "Intercept" assumes

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    SDS, Black Panthers, Nation of Islam, Democrats, etc. would never buy into such claptrap.

  • Ken Shultz||

    This isn't really about Bundy, of course. It's about justice and proprietorial misconduct.

    I'm so sick of seeing proprietorial misconduct excused because the defendant was guilty--looking at you, Ross Albricht trial.

    No congratulations to the Bundys are in order. The congratulations belong to everyone who thinks that the Constitution still protects our rights.

    Incidentally, the courts may have saved federal prosecutors the embarrassment of choosing not to file charges against Bundy again. I don't see how federal prosecutors could present evidence and testimony once they knew it wasn't necessarily credible--even if the judge hadn't dismissed the charges.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Damn auto correct!

    proprietorial = prosecutorial

    . . . but you probably already knew that.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Don't worry. I heard you.

  • DiegoF||

    Ugh, I do not want to check my Facebook feed today. Going to be a bunch of folks, who rarely give black folks a thought except as this sort of foil, bemoaning the fact that white people--and nasty smelly rural white people at that, with nasty smelly rural white people ideas--did receive justice on this particular occasion. Again, the blacks are just a convenient foil for them to express their desire that people they don't like get oppressed--a dash of the pseudo-Marxist identity-politics view of "justice" as the power struggle between competing population sectors being likewise convenient for these "liberals" to express a view that it would have been somehow better in some way for these distasteful Americans to get their just slapdown regardless of what the law says.

  • colorblindkid||

    The "justice" in social justice inherently implies retribution and punishment. It is not about equality or freedom. It is not about fixing the future.

    Social justice is about punishing people today for the sins of the past by people who happened to look like them.

  • Handful||

    Obama appointed that Judge by the way.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Checks scorecard...Illuminati confirmed!

  • mjerryfuerst||

    Charges were also dismissed many years ago for prosecutorial misconduct when the government prosecuted Daniel Ellsberg for releasing the Pentagon Papers

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Former Acting Nevada U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre, leading the prosecution, wrote all the above off as either inadvertent or insignificant error, not malfeasance, on the government's part.

    Nonetheless, someone's not gonna get to be attorney general.

    Wasn't this the same judge who tried with her jury instructions to stave off nullification?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Is that Cliven Bundy fellow giving a TED Talk? If he is, where is his head mic? What century is he living in?

  • Tom Bombadil||

    You're thinking of Ted Bundy.

  • The_Hoser||

    He scored four touchdowns in one game for Polk High, you know.

  • Curt||

    Marcy D'arcy is unimpressed.

  • Conchfritters||

    Former Acting Nevada U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre, leading the prosecution, wrote all the above off as either inadvertent or insignificant error, not malfeasance, on the government's part.

    Yeah, of course he did. The ingredients don't matter as long as Justice is the chef.

  • Rockabilly||

    Man, the progressive communists are going to be angry.

  • Ron||

    Lots of people are already complaining about if you are white you can use a gun against the government but what they don't realize is where this all occurred its legal to have guns and BLM protesters can also carry guns in many of their protest as long as they do nothing else, as in no looting.

  • Roy Batty||

    So when do these prosecuting attorneys ever get brought up on charges? If true, I'm assuming the Bundy's prosecutors broke some Federal laws.

    Oh, I forgot. They're lawyers AND work for the federal government, so they're above the normal riffraff that are supposed to follow the laws.

  • Hank Phillips||

    What? Government SWAT snipers pointing a loaded rifle at your head ain't menacing! That was their way of being gruff and loveable! None of them sneezed.

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