Editorial: Bundy and his followers should get a speedy, public trial

Rancher Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and their 16 co-defendants in the April 2014 armed standoff with federal agents trying to round-up Bundy’s cattle should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, but prosecuted under the full constraints of the U.S. Constitution.

This past week U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen set a trial date of Feb. 6 next year before Federal District Court Judge Gloria Navarro for the 19 defendants, all of whom are being held without bail pending that trial. The case was scheduled for trial on May 2.

Cliven Bundy at an event near his Bunkerville ranch a year ago. (R-J photo)

Judge Leen said it is a complex case and the “ends of justice” outweigh the interest of the public and the defendants in having a speedy trial. At a hearing the 69-year-old Bundy and most other defendants said they wanted to exercise their right to a speedy trial, according to press accounts.

Leen also told prosecutors and defense attorneys to confer to determine whether they could agree on a “stipulated protective order” that would keep secret from the public key evidence.

U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden promptly filed a motion seeking sweeping secrecy in order to “protect victims, witnesses, law enforcement officers, and agent/investigators associated with this case from threats, intimidation, and harassment from supporters of the Bundy defendants.” The bulk of his argument is that some unnamed people have posted strong language on the Internet. (motion for protective order)

As Claude Rains said in “Casablanca,” we are shocked — shocked — to find strong language on the Internet.

The defendants face felony charges that include conspiracy, obstruction, extortion and assault, which carry penalties of up to 50 years in prison.

Prosecutors have had two years to prepare their case for trial, why should it take another year and a shroud of secrecy?

The Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights states: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury … and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

Keeping the defendants in prison for a year without the benefit of a conviction is hardly a speedy trial, nor does keeping evidence a secret constitute a public trial.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal, Battle Born Media and The Associated Press filed a legal challenge this past week to the proposed protective order to keep evidence secret — a move reminiscent of the British Star Chamber the Founders found so repugnant. (BUNDY RJBBMAP secrecy)

The motion by attorney Maggie McLetchie says “the government’s protective order thwarts the public’s right to information about this case by depriving it of access to all documents produced by the government. Moreover, in its hubris, the government has failed to provide any good cause to do so.”

The attorney offered that, if prosecutors can confirm their “concerns for witness safety and security,” perhaps names and identifying information could be redacted but not the entire evidence.

Yes, Bundy and his followers in all likelihood broke numerous laws, but that is for a jury to decide in a speedy and public trial.

The government has had enough time to prepare its case and call its witnesses. Perhaps, May 2 was too soon since none of the attorneys for the defendants have yet been given the evidence and the names of witnesses who they must confront at trial, but that preparation should not take a year — especially since all of their clients are being held without bail.

The government should not be able to have it both ways — getting a lengthy delay while keeping not-yet-convicted suspects jailed and unable to provide for their families.

The Bureau of Land Management leaders were embarrassed when their army of heavily armed agents descended upon the ranch only to face a couple hundred  armed civilians and have to back down to avoid bloodshed.

The BLM bungled the round-up effort, but no one at the agency has yet been reviewed or held accountable for that.

The delay and the secrecy make this case look more like revenge than justice.

A version of this editorial appears this past week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

16 comments on “Editorial: Bundy and his followers should get a speedy, public trial

  1. Clearly the federal government is violating the constitutional rights of these US citizens…and the veil of government secrecy in this matter must be lifted. They are being persecuted as political prisoners as one would expect to see in Cuba, Venezuela or some other despot hell hole. Put it all out into the sunshine for all to see and let the chips fall where they may. I for one…would love to read the emails and phone transcripts between the BLM’s “leaders” on the strategies that were put into place in both instances. The ineptness and condescending arrogance of these so called government servants of the people would be exposed for what it is…CYA before everyone discovers your incompetence.

  2. Patrick says:

    Define “speedy” for me.

    And, the Bundys, and their co-conspirators, won’t be denied a “public trial”; I’m sure the press, and anyone else who wants to be there, can be.

    Finally, sooner or later, the Bundys, and their dangerous co-conspirators, will get “justice”, and the country will be a little safer for it.

  3. 628. Speedy Trial Act of 1974

    Title I of the Speedy Trial Act of 1974, 88 Stat. 2080, as amended August 2, 1979, 93 Stat. 328, is set forth in 18 U.S.C. §§ 3161-3174. The Act establishes time limits for completing the various stages of a federal criminal prosecution. The information or indictment must be filed within 30 days from the date of arrest or service of the summons. 18 U.S.C. § 3161(b). Trial must commence within 70 days from the date the information or indictment was filed, or from the date the defendant appears before an officer of the court in which the charge is pending, whichever is later. 18 U.S.C. § 3161(c)(1).

  4. Steve says:

    Patrick is furiously searching for sham plea that shows the word “must” actually means “may”

  5. Patrick says:

    The Speedy Trial Act “commands that a defendant be tried within 70 days of the latest of either the filing of an indictment or information, or the first appearance before a judge or magistrate.”  Henderson v. United States, 476 U.S. 321, 322, 106 S.Ct. 1871, 90 L.Ed.2d 299 (1986);  see 18 U.S.C. § 3161(c)(1).   The sanction for failure to adhere to this time limit is severe-the indictment is dismissed on motion of the defendant.   See 18 U.S.C. § 3162(a)(2).   In determining whether a violation of the Act has occurred, certain “periods of delay shall be excluded in computing the time within which ․ the trial ․ must commence.”  18 U.S.C. § 3161(h).
    The following are among the kinds of delays that are properly omitted from this calculation:
    [a]ny period of delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant, including but not limited to-

    (F) delay resulting from any pretrial motion, from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing on, or other prompt disposition of, such motion;

    (J) delay reasonably attributable to any period, not to exceed thirty days, during which any proceeding concerning the defendant is actually under advisement by the court.

    (8)(A) Any period of delay resulting from a continuance granted by any judge on his own motion or at the request of the defendant or his counsel or at the request of the attorney for the Government, if the judge granted such continuance on the basis of his findings that the ends of justice served by taking such action outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial.

    You missed the relevant part Thomas, which in this case is 8(A) above. Clearly this omission was inadvertent, but as you can see, leaving it out does confuse some people.

    – See more at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-1st-circuit/1281209.html#sthash.MNblsNvY.dpuf

  6. You asked what a speedy trial was, not what the possible exceptions might be. So the law is written in smoke.

  7. Patrick says:

    Well I asked what a speedy trial was, and you gave me the statutory definition was, without including all the sections that defined the words.

    But, and I guess I wasn’t real clear, but what I really meant was, what does the phrase “speedy trial” mean as used in the Constitution? I get so many….”constitutionalists” trying to claim that the Constitution was written in a way so easy to understand that it doesn’t even need “interpretation” and just my way of pointing out how….untrue that is, by using this example. I mean…”speedy”? The heck does that mean? “Speedy” back in 1776 was traveling at 20 Miles per hour…not so much today.

    Oh well, just me trying to make a point I guess about people like Winston.

  8. It’s not a speedy trial.

  9. Bill says:

    I am sure that numerous persons have corrected you. It was Claude Rains who spoke those immortal lines as he collected his gambling winnings from Rick. Otherwise, I totally agree with your comments. From my experience, there is a level of paranoia within the bureaucracy about the potential for violence whenever they venture out into the wilds of Nevada. This was manifest by their initial shock and awe show of force against Bundy in the first instance which served no purpose other than to waste extraordinary tax dollars and create a folk hero out of a rather marginal person.

  10. Nope. You are the first, thanks.

  11. Patrick says:

    Well, then define speedy? (And this time either use the statutory definition in full, or give me your own definition that has some use across the board)

    To me, the use of the word is contingent upon circumstances, and that is what the judge here determined (and the way the law was written as well)

    The judge did exactly what the law calls for, and it makes perfect sense that the law was written the way it was.

  12. A speedy trial is 70 days. An exception to that is not a speedy trial, but an exception.

  13. Patrick says:

    The phrase is defined by the statute. The statute says what a “speedy trial” means. “Speedy Trial” means what the statute says and nothing more (statutorily speaking) and according to the statute “speedy trial means that any period during a continuance granted or ordered by the court, is “omitted” from consideration. As if it doesn’t exist. You can’t read the definition and exclude a term.

    But, you knew that.

  14. Steve says:

    A continuance must have a date. It is a rescheduling of the action. This cannot be open ended.

    But you knew that.

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