False start for Bundy trial
The jury has been selected and while trial was scheduled to begin today for the “tier 1” Bundy standoff defendants, opening statements have been delayed until next Monday. Cliven Bundy, his sons Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy and Ryan Payne, a Montana army veteran and Bundy supporter are accused of a number of felonies including conspiracy, assault of a federal officer, extortion, interference with interstate commerce by extortion, and more, for their successful efforts to stop the Bureau of Land Management’s cattle gathering attempts in April of 2014.
Opening statements will now begin next week, said Montana lawyer Roger Roots, who works for Cliven Bundy’s attorney Bret Whipple.
Whipple and Ryan Payne will both present motions tomorrow (Nov. 8), said Roots.
“Whipple filed a motion last night about revelations that came out in the evidentiary hearing,” said Roots. He explained that Ryan Bundy, who represents himself, asked questions during the evidentiary hearing, the first week of November, that revealed that government surveillance footage exists, but has not been submitted as evidence. The undercover surveillance cameras recorded the activities at the Bundy home during the protest. Whipple’s motion calls for the video to be presented as evidence.
Ryan Payne, who is represented by a public defender, will file a motion tomorrow that attempts to “dig into whether or not Dan Love’s unethical actions have poisoned other BLM officials and affected individuals and other things that might pertain to this trial,” said Roots.
Dan Love, the BLM agent who led the cattle gathering operation on the Bundy Ranch in April of 2014, has since lost his employment with the federal agency because of unethical activities, according to reports by the US Office of the Inspector General. Love reportedly used unethical conduct a number of times. The OIG report said Love improperly intervened in the April 2015 hiring process for a BLM special agent position after he learned that a friend did not make the initial list of candidates to be interviewed, ordered e-mails deleted and ‘scrubbed’ and used his influence to obtain sold out tickets.
Roots confirmed that District Court Judge Gloria Navarro, who oversaw the other two Bundy standoff participant trials this year – against defendants Eric Parker, O. Scott Drexler, Steven Stewart, Ricky Lovelien, Greg Burleson and Todd Engel, will preside over this case as well. Just as in the last two trials, Navarro has requested, and been granted, a motion in limine that prevents the defendants from talking about their First Amendment and Second Amendment rights.
The defense is not allowed to say the word “constitution” or talk about the BLM’s actions that caused individuals to protest.
“They are not allowed to speak about BLM killing cattle, they are not allowed to speak about self defense in front of the jury until the judge has a hearing outside the jury’s presence about whether or not they can make that argument,” explained Roots. He said the judge does not believe that “self defense” should be mentioned in the courtroom because she believes that the protesters were advancing, military style, on federal officials during the Bundy standoff, rather than defending themselves and the Bundy family.
After Cliven Bundy refused to pay his BLM grazing lease for years, and allegedly racked up around $1 million in grazing fees, trespass fees and late fees, the BLM hired cowboys in April of 2014 to gather Bundy cattle with the intent to sell the cattle. Fed up with what they consider government mismanagement of federal land and government overreach, around 200 protesters from across the country traveled to Bunkerville, Nevada to protest the government taking of the Bundy family’s cattle. On April 12, the BLM retreated and left the Bundy ranch and cattle, although some cattle had been killed in the process and others died later as the result of the gather that occurred during calving season.
Two of the “tier 3” defendants –Todd Engel of Idaho and Gregory Burleson of Arizona were found guilty of at least one felony but have not yet been sentenced. Two other “tier 3” defendants, Steven Stewart of Idaho and Ricky Lovelien of Montana were acquitted of all charges, while the other two, Eric Parker and O. Scott Drexler, both of Idaho, pled guilty to a misdemeanor and were released from prison. The “tier 3 defendants” are considered “mid –level” participants in the April 12 standoff between the Bureau of Land Management and the Bundy family, militia and protesters.
Tier 2 defendets still await trial: Dave Bundy, Mel Bundy, Joseph O’Shaughnessy, Brian Cavalier, Jason Woods, and Micah McGuire.