Throws out felony conspiracy and weapons charges against Nevada ranchers
Finding “flagrant misconduct” by Obama administration prosecutors, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed felony conspiracy and weapons charges against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his sons and supporters.
The federal government was appealing the dismissal of the case by U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro, who ruled in January 2018 that prosecutors improperly withheld evidence.
The Bundys have been in a dispute with the federal government for more than 25 years over cattle grazing rights for his cattle. The government alleged that Bundy, his sons and Montana militia leader Ryan Payne the leaders of a massive conspiracy to assault law enforcement officers a few miles from the Bundy ranch.
An armed standoff occurred after federal agents tried to execute a court order to round up Bundy’s cattle on federal land. The encounter ended without injury after Bureau of Land Management officers engaged in a standoff with the Bundys and their supporters when they tried to execute a court order to round up the family’s cattle. The agents eventually backed down.
Cliven Bundy argued it was the state of Nevada, not the U.S., that rightfully owned the lands around his private property on which his cattle grazed.
The dismissal was based on the Brady precedent, which states: “The prosecution is trusted to turn over evidence to the defense because its interest ‘is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done.'”
The 9th Circuit said the case began with “a well-publicized effort by the Bureau of Land Management to impound Cliven Bundy’s cattle for a twenty-year failure to pay federal grazing fees. Cliven Bundy and hundreds of armed supporters from around the United States forced federal officials to abandon the impoundment plan.”
Then, when the Bundys were on trial, “the government began disclosing information in its possession that, under Brady, was arguably useful to the defense and should have been produced to the defendants well before trial. As additional documents came forth, the district court held a series of hearings, eventually deciding that the trial could not go forward and that the indictment must be dismissed with prejudice,” the 9th Circuit said.
“Central to the government’s case were allegations that the defendants intentionally lied about being surrounded by snipers as a ploy to gather armed supporters. Had the defendants been able to proffer a basis for genuinely believing that government snipers surrounded the Bundy Ranch, they potentially could have negated the government’s … theory. Surveying all the withheld evidence – including surveillance-camera evidence, FBI ‘302’ investigative reports regarding snipers, Tactical Operations Center log records, and threat assessments – the panel held that the record amply supports the district court’s conclusion that the defendants suffered substantial prejudice in no being able to prepare their case fully, refine their voir dire strategy, and make stronger opening statements.”
Attorney Larry Klayman, founder of Freedom Watch, said his client, Cliven Bundy, has been “forced to endure the emotional distress and physical harm of being arrested and denied bail, being thrown in solitary confinement for no valid reason, denied right of counsel and a speedy trial and then, after about two years of illegal incarceration, had to endure a sham and fraudulent trial, where exculpatory evidence was hidden, prosecutors lied to the presiding judge, and where a whistleblower came forward to disclose that there had been a ‘kill list’ by some agents of the Bureau of Land Management on the heads of the Bundys, is now relieved that this nightmare is over.”
Klayman, a former Department of Justice lawyer, previously accused the prosecutors’ of “suborning perjury.”
At the time the appeal was pending, Klayman said: “The Department of Justice, which has sadly become known as the ‘Department of Injustice,’ is going ahead by with its appeal of the dismissal of the indictment a year ago, characteristically ‘circling the wagons’ to cover the dishonest and unethical tracks of Steven Mahre, Dan Schiess and other prosecutors in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada.”
He said the prosecutors “were previously caught lying to the court, suborning perjury, threatening whistleblower Larry Wooten and, put simply, committing crimes.”
During the standoff, the government confiscated some of the Bundys’ cattle.
Klayman has written about the DOJ’s actions in his WND columns as well as on the Cliven Bundy Legal Defense Fund site.
He said it took “chutzpah” for the government to appeal the dismissal of the case by Navarro, who, he said, was “no friend of Cliven Bundy, his family and the armed peaceful protesters who stood down a tyrannical government at Bunkerville in 2014.”
The prosecutors failed to share evidence of BLM agents “repeatedly mocking and degrading Mr. Bundy, his family, and his co-defendants in an ‘amateurish carnival atmosphere.'”
Also, federal agents bragged “about roughing up Mr. Bundy’s son, Dave, and violently grinding his face into the ground.”
The opinion makes clear the BLM coordinated with multiple agencies and contractors as well as law enforcement agencies and had “strategically placed at elevated positions around the Bundy residence each evening” agents with “binoculars, spotting scopes, night-vision goggles, and thermal-imaging devices.”
And the agents had “rifles with them at all times.”
Bundy supporters poured into the area and, numbering some 400, they demanded that federal officers leave the impoundment area where 400 cattle had been held. The federal officials eventually left.
The subsequent trial was over allegations of impeding officers, threatening law enforcement and extortion.
“The central pillar of the government’s case was the allegation that the defendants recruited armed followers by intentionally deceiving those followers into believing that the Bundys feared for their lives because government snipers surrounded their ranch,” the ruling said.
The defendants, in preparing their case, asked for government documents about the snipers, the opinion explained, but didn’t receive it.
But then the government admitted it had the evidence.
The court found the lower court judge had the right to dismiss the indictment “to implement a remedy for a violation of a recognized statutory or constitutional right.”