Cliven, Ammon and Ryan Bundy walk free after Judge Navarro dismisses case with prejudice
Judge Gloria Navarro of the Nevada District Court dismissed "with prejudice" the case against Cliven Bundy and his sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and Ryan Payne on Jan. 8. This means federal prosecutors will not have the option to reopen or retry the case.
Ryan Payne will now travel to Oregon to await trial for charges related to the Malheur Refuge protest that he, the Bundys and others staged in 2016. While other participants in that takeover were found innocent, Payne pled guilty and continues to await trial.
Judge Navarro set Feb. 26 as the date to begin the trial for four more men involved in the standoff – Dave Bundy, Mel Bundy, Joe O'Shaughnessy and Jason Woods, known by the court as "tier 2 defendants."
It was discovered in December that the prosecution violated the "Brady Rule" at least seven times, by willfully withholding evidence that it should have shared with the defense. The revelation of these violations eventually led Navarro to dismiss the case, Bryan Hyde, a reporter with "Who's Next" news reported that the judge said the prosecution, led by Steven Myhre acted in ways that were "especially egregious," "grossly shocking," and she also talked about "flagrant prosecutorial misconduct," "reckless disregard" and more. She said the only fair recourse was not to have another trial but to dismiss it because it involved a serious constitutional violation and there was a need to preserve judicial integrity and prevent future misconduct on the part of the government.
The judge was referring not only to the fact that evidence was withheld, but the blatantly arrogant way with which it was withheld, said Hyde.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, late last month, said he was calling for an investigation into the government's handling of the case – including multiple instances of mishandling of evidence.
The investigation probably will be conducted by investigative attorneys, said Roger Roots who serves on Cliven Bundy's legal team. While there is no way of knowing how long the investigation will last, the investigators will be looking at then-acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre's Brady violations. Myhre, who was appointed acting U.S. attorney by President Donald Trump about a year ago, recently was replaced because his one-year appointment ended.
Sessions made the call to look into Myhre's handling of the case when Judge Navarro last month declared a mistrial, saying it would have been "impossible" for the four co-defendants to receive a fair trial because of the willful witholding of evidence in at least seven instances by the prosecution.
Ryan Bundy said the Jan. 8 dismissal with prejudice was not unexpected.
"We're not surprised by the judge's decision. It's been a long time coming," he said. "We knew we were not guilty of these crimes, we knew that the truth would be revealed."
Judge Navarro, who from the beginning prevented the defense from talking about the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, the BLM's use of force and other such matters, showed bias against the Bundy family early on, Ryan Bundy said.
"It's terrible, judges are supposed to be neutral but she was decidedly on the side of the government. I believe it is that way in most cases. The government has a 98 or 99 percent conviction rate. Many judges are past prosecutors and they have the mindset that everyone is guilty."
Bundy said he doesn't think that the judge necessarily believes in the innocence of the Bundy family but that "the truth was out so plainly that she could not deny it. She couldn't rule any other way without being in gross misconduct. She had to protect herself."
Social media did help the Bundy family garner support and keep those interested in their situation informed.
Ryan Bundy said that he had been out of prison, albeit with an ankle bracelet to track his movement, since mid-November but that his father Cliven had not been released until the day of the dismissal, Jan. 8. "He already ditched me," Ryan said of Cliven."He's ready to get home."
Ryan, who ranches with his father (some of the children, including Ammon, no longer live or work on the ranch), does not fear the federal government or any future attempts to collect money.
"We own the rights. That's what we've been saying. Grazing fees are a fabrication of the federal government. They don't own the land. We aren't going to make a contract with the federal government. Why would we pay a grazing fee?" he asked.
Cliven Bundy said if the BLM shows up again to take his cattle, he will call on the local authorities for protection.
"I will call our county sheriff. It is his duty to protect our life liberty and property," he said.
Ryan said he and his father paid a visit to their county sheriff this week, but he avoided them.
"We will have a talk with him. If he won't do his job then we'll replace him. That's the good thing about this kind of government."
Charges against the Bundy men ranged from conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, conspiracy to impede and injure a federal officer to use and carry of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and interstate travel in aid of extortion.
The indictments are not directly related to money the Bundy family owes the federal government for grazing Bureau of Land Management land. The charges stemmed from a "standoff" in April of 2014 when the BLM attempted to gather Cliven Bundy's cattle and the Bundy family along with hundreds of supporters from around the country protested the government's removal of family's cattle from the ranch.
The BLM said they were gathering the cattle to sell them, to settle a debt they said the Bundys owed for about 20 years of unpaid fees on BLM land. The BLM turned the cattle loose and left the Bundy ranch after the actions escalated to a "standoff" between federal agents and Bundy supporters, many of which were armed on both sides. F