Newspaper column: What evidence is pertinent in Bundy trials?

Pardon us plebs, but we are a tad bit confused about just what is admissible evidence in the Bunkerville standoff trials.

This past week, about a month into the second of three scheduled trials, the judge declared a mistrial because the prosecution had failed to timely turn over potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense.

Federal Judge Gloria Navarro listed six instances in which prosecutors willfully withheld evidence — including information about an FBI surveillance camera, documents citing the presence of snipers, certain maps, FBI logs, threat assessments that showed the Bundys weren’t violent and internal affairs documents detailing possible misdeeds by the Bureau of Land Management agent in charge, who was later fired.

The judge ruled the material might have been useful in shaping a defense for the protesters who showed up at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in April 2014 when BLM agents attempted to impound 500 head of his cattle for failing to pay $1 million in grazing fees and fines for two decades.

Cliven Bundy (Getty pix)

According to press accounts, Judge Navarro noted FBI log entries said “snipers were inserted” outside the Bundy home, though prosecutors previously denied any snipers were posted and now say they were unaware of the FBI log showing otherwise. Ignorance is no accuse, the judge chided.

Curious. In an earlier trial, Judge Navarro kicked defendant Erik Parker off the witness stand for trying to mention where a BLM sniper was positioned. He was not allowed to continue his defense.

During that trial the judge had granted a sweeping prosecution motion to bar arguments about the defendants’ “state of mind,” such as whether they were provoked by the government’s massive show of force.

She ruled that defense could not mention nor show video or audio depicting the arrest of Cliven’s son Dave Bundy in which he was wrestled to the ground; nor any recordings showing the tasering of son Ammon Bundy or a BLM agent grabbing Cliven’s sister Margaret Houston from behind and throwing her to the ground; nor any testimony or opinion about the level of force displayed by law enforcement; nor references to Bundy’s grazing, water, or legacy rights on the public lands; no references to infringements on First and Second Amendment rights; and no mention of the punishment the defendants faced if convicted.

It appears some of the very things not allowed in evidence at an earlier trial are now grounds for a mistrial because the defense was not provided documentation.

To add further to the contortions and machinations of this case, just days before the judge declared a mistrial the prosecution filed a motion similar to the one granted in the prior trial. It asked the judge to not allow the introduction of “evidence or argument at trial that relate to instigation/provocation, self-defense/defense of others, entrapment, justification for violent self-help, impermissible state of mind justification, and collateral attacks on the court orders.” The motion said presenting any of this to the jury would amount to jury nullification. (Bundy motion on jury nullification)

In this trial Cliven Bundy and sons Ryan and Ammon, as well as self-styled militia member Ryan Payne, face charges that include obstruction of justice, conspiracy, extortion, assault and impeding federal officers.

Faced with armed protesters during the cattle impoundment, agents released the cattle rather than risk a shootout.

“The law does not permit the defendants to expand the legally cognizable defense of self-defense against a law enforcement officer by incorporating instigation and provocation,” the latest motion states. “To do so would eviscerate the well-recognized elements of self-defense. Defendants, rather, seek to introduce evidence of instigation and provocation to obtain jury nullification. Jury nullification is illegal.”

Rather than slap a lien on the Bundy ranch and cattle or freeze the ranch’s bank accounts, the BLM instead chose to send in an armed force to oversee the rounding up of Bundy’s cattle by contracted cowboys. The operation has been estimated to have cost $3 million. Once the cattle were corralled and off the grazing range, there was no hay to feed them and reportedly no one willing to take the cattle.

Additionally, withheld documents reportedly included statements that no threatened desert tortoises were ever found to be harmed by Bundy’s cattle, the reason the BLM tried to limit his grazing in the first place.

A hearing in the case is set for January. Unless the judge decides to dismiss the charges, a retrial is slated for late February. What evidence would be allowed?

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Update: Motions seek to have charges thrown out.

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19 comments on “Newspaper column: What evidence is pertinent in Bundy trials?

  1. Rex Steninger says:

    Nice work. Jury nullification is illegal? Is that true?

  2. Bill says:

    Rex, too bad your Dad is still not with us. He would have relished this fight.

    To my knowledge there is no controlling decision that holds that jury nullification is “illegal”. The earlier withholding of evidence by the prosecution was reprehensible. To permit the prosecution to decide unilaterally what is or is not exculpatory is a sham rule and indefensible. It is clearly prosecutorial misconduct ethically as well as legally. Chances are though the attorneys will suffer no consequences. If there are no consequences then what does it matter that people’s lives, property or liberty may be taken?

    Bundy was a lawbreaker when he continued to graze his cattle without paying his fees.
    The government could have asserted liens on Bundy’s real property, cattle and bank accounts. They chose not to do so and instead surrounded the Bundys with armed snipers.

    Analogize if you will to the law on self defense. In defending your person, you can meet force with like force. In the face of unnecessary massive federal forces, given the prior examples of Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidian Waco complex and the unnecessary loss of life there, is it any wonder that the Bundy people reacted in the manner that they did?

    Anyone remember the original Rambo movie?

    The handling of the unpaid grazing fees is an object lesson on government excesses and abuses. Perhaps it does not excuse the Bundys but it does provide an explanation.

  3. […] to the defendants. But the very evidence that prompted the mistrial was evidence the judge had earlier deemed inadmissible because it amounted to an argument that the accused were provoked to […]

  4. Anonymous says:

    The Bundy’s and their minions broke the law, then took up arms against the government they refused to recognize and justice requires that they spend the rest of their hopefully miserable lives locked up.

    Don’t like the law? Change it. Try to change it and fail? That’s what happens sometimes in a constitutional republic and it gives you no justification for continuing to break the law.. But, breaking the law, then taking up arms against those charged with upholding that law, gets you no sympathy from me or, the law.

  5. Even law breakers deserve due process or none of us is secure in our lives and property.

  6. Bill says:

    As painful as it sometimes is, Thomas. that is a message that needs to be repeated, over and over, least the Alt-Left stormtroopers hold total sway over discourse. If memory serves me, our nation was founded by people wanting to and distant government.

  7. Steve says:

    There should be a statute of limitation on grazing fees. Enforce within one year or lose the right to enforce forever.

  8. deleted says:

    No Thomas, they don’t deserve due process they’re entitled to it by law but people who deny the existence of the country that has a Constitution that guarantees it, deserve nothing.

  9. Steve says:

    Patrick’s been hitting the eggnog again…..but it appears he’s admitting bundy is guaranteed a fair trial or freedom from persecution.

  10. Athos says:

    Little p, you going to DisneyWorld to yell at the Trump Robot?

  11. Bill says:

    Steve: Don’t fall into the trap of trying to make sense out of nonsense. It is an not unlike revisiting ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

  12. deleted says:

    Alholes I figured you would be a hypocrite about the Dotard. Just like most far right lunatics that feigned their loyalty to “our beloved Constitution” during the last administration.

    Most of you “libertarians” are same in that way though so you’re not alone.

  13. Athos says:

    How about you drop the pretense for 2018, and just admit you’d rather live under MCM (Marxist Communist Maoist) rule, OK pal?

    Go Donald Go!

  14. deleted says:

    How about you just drop the pretense and admit you’d rather live under a fascist (Nazi) rule, OK buddy?

    Oh wait, you just did.

  15. Steve says:

    There it IS!!!

    Patrick went NAZI!

    game over.

    And, thanks Bill! Those illogical twists from the sham plea king are phenomenal.

  16. Athos says:

    It’s the ignorance of today’s youth that drives me crazy, Steve!

    Although I don’t know if it’s ignorance or purposeful lying about history.

    But is much as our former commander in chief Pinocchio used to disgust me, I don’t ever recall howling at the sky or turning to crayons and hot chocolate as a way of protest of the “light bringer”.

    Maybe it’s a generational thing?

  17. […] failed to turn over to the defense, which resulted in a mistrial and the dismissal of charges, were deemed not admissible in earlier trials. Could that be grounds for appeals in the handful of convictions in those trials, […]

  18. […] we noted two weeks ago, it is rather curious that the judge in the Bunkerville standoff case declared a […]

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