Mistrial Declared In Bundy Ranch Standoff Case | WYPR

Mistrial Declared In Bundy Ranch Standoff Case

Dec 21, 2017
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Federal prosecutors have suffered another serious setback in their attempt to convict the Bundy family for leading armed standoffs against the government in the West. A federal judge yesterday declared a mistrial in the conspiracy case against rancher Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and another member of the Bundy militia. The judge said prosecutors had willfully withheld evidence in the case of that 2014 armed standoff near the Bundy ranch. Here's NPR's Kirk Siegler.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: For the Bundy's, this is a clear, if partial, victory. A retrial could come early next year. But for now, outside federal court in Las Vegas, Cliven's son Ammon sounded thrilled talking to reporters as his supporters clutched pocket-sized constitutions and streamed his comments on their phones.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AMMON BUNDY: I think there's enough evidence there to appear that they wanted a confrontation.

SIEGLER: This had been a central argument by the defense in the trial that the government, not the Bundy's, were the ones actually doing the instigating leading up to the tense standoff.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BUNDY: So that they could show the world or have an excuse to say, look, Cliven Bundy is violent. Cliven Bundy's sons are violent.

SIEGLER: Cliven Bundy owes the government an estimated million dollars in fines and unpaid leases for grazing his cattle on U.S. public lands. He's defied court orders while also erroneously claiming the government had no right to manage the land. And it all came to a head in April of 2014 when federal agents came to round up hundreds of his cows. They were met by an armed militia and stood down.

There are troves of video on social media showing Bundy supporters pointing guns at government agents who are in riot gear. But during the trial, U.S. judge Gloria Navarro scolded prosecutors for not turning over additional evidence that she said they'd withheld, including video footage from an FBI surveillance camera at the standoff. And yesterday, she said she was reluctantly declaring a mistrial. The acting U.S. attorney for Nevada who is now trying the case declined to comment, but it's widely expected they'll seek a retrial.

KIERAN SUCKLING: This should be a pretty straightforward case.

SIEGLER: Kieran Suckling heads the Arizona based Center for Biological Diversity and staged an anti-Bundy protest outside court yesterday. Suckling says prosecutors are bungling the case by being overzealous and cavalier. That was a similar criticism in Oregon where Ammon Bundy was acquitted last year in the separate armed occupation of the Malherbe National Wildlife Refuge.

SUCKLING: They are undermining our faith in the court system and emboldening those who want to spin out conspiracy theories about federal management of our public lands.

SIEGLER: The judge gave prosecutors until the end of the month to make their case for a retrial. Kirk Siegler, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF LOST IN KIEV'S "RESILIENCE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.