Nearly four years after the armed 2014 “Bundy Standoff,” which played out between rancher Cliven Bundy, his supporters, and government authorities and shut down a section of I-15, charges against the aging Nevada rancher, his two sons Ammon and Ryan, and two others have been dismissed. The defendants had been indicted by a federal grand jury in 2016 on charges related to the 2014 standoff, which was spawned by a dispute between Bundy and the federal government over unpaid cattle grazing fees in excess of $1 million.
As Fox News reported, Bundy had refused, and to this day still refuses, to pay federal grazing fees, claiming that the grazing land in question belongs to the “sovereign state” of Nevada, not the feds. The dispute between Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) extends back to the early 1990s and a change in federal law that restricted ranchers’ grazing rights on federal lands in an effort protect the indigenous habitat of the desert tortoise.
On March 27, 2014, the government shut down over 145,000 acres of federal land and the BLM began an operation to capture, impound and remove Cliven Bundy’s “trespass cattle.” Within roughly two weeks, pro-Bundy protesters, many armed, began to arrive on-site to help put an end to the roundup.
Ultimately, and in an attempt to de-escalate a volatile situation, an agreement was reached between BLM director Neil Kornze, local Sheriff Doug Gillespie and Cliven Bundy to release the impounded cattle. After the standoff was resolved, 71-year-old continued to allow his cattle to graze on BLM land without paying his grazing fees, as he has since 1993.
Bundy was arrested for his role in the Bundy Standoff on February 10, 2016, in Oregon, where the rancher had traveled to intervene in yet another standoff involving his sons Ryan and Ammon. At the time, the men were illegally occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge along with dozens of supporters. On February 17, 2016, Cliven Bundy, along with his sons and others, was indicted for 16 felonies related to the 2014 Nevada standoff. The case went to trial last October.
On December 20, 2017, U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro declared a mistrial in the federal case against the Bundys and their co-defendants, citing “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct.” On January 8, reports Fox 13 Now, Judge Navarro dismissed the criminal charges against Cliven Bundy and three others with prejudice, meaning that the federal government cannot retry the case.
“The court finds that the universal sense of justice has been violated.”
Judge Navarro had previously suspended the Bundy trial when prosecutors violated a discovery deadline and ultimately turned in more than 3,300 pages of documents late, and warned at that time that she may declare a mistrial in the case based on “The Brady rule,” which requires that failure of prosecutors to disclose evidence to defendants and their defense team violates the defendant’s right to due process.
According to Judge Navarro, most of the evidence that was held back came from the FBI and would have benefited the defense of Cliven Bundy, something she said was “not a coincidence.”
On Monday afternoon, Cliven Bundy emerged from the U.S. District Court building in Las Vegas a free man, claiming to have been a “political prisoner” during the 700 days he spent incarcerated between his arrest and today’s dismissal of charges. Bundy has continued to steadfastly deny the federal government’s authority over the BLM land where his cattle graze.
According to Bundy’s lawyer Bret Whipple, it was important that his client “go home a free man.”
“Today was the hearing to determine if the mistrial of the court was with prejudice or without prejudice, and Judge Gloria Navarro dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning that the US Attorney’s Office could not bring the case against Cliven Bundy back. It was important for [Cliven] to go home to his family but it was important to him to go home as a free man, with no contingencies, no conditions.”
Bundy faced life in prison if convicted.