Bunkerville defendant kicked off the witness stand by judge for, well, defending himself

First Amendment area cordoned off by BLM.

The judge in the trial of four defendants in the 2014 Bunkerville standoff with BLM agents attempting to confiscate rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle has made it clear she will not allow a defense based on First or Second Amendment rights or claims that BLM misbehavior provoked the protest.

On Thursday she cut short the testimony of defendant Eric Parker after he tried to mention in his defense testimony a “First Amendment area” the BLM had set up to isolate protesters — an area that Gov. Brian Sandoval said “tramples upon Nevadans’ fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution” — and attempted to mention where a BLM sniper was positioned.

BLM snipers?

The judge told Parker to step down without completing his testimony.  Reportedly there will be no cross examination and no jury questions.

Now, if Parker can’t even mention the First or Second Amendment, can he mention the Sixth?

You know, the one that guarantees the right to a speedy and public trial, rather than one that takes place a year and a half after an arrest; the one that guarantees an impartial jury, rather than one stacked by the prosecution to remove anyone who has ever even heard the phrase “jury nullification”; the one that guarantees the right to obtain witnesses in his favor, rather than having witnesses testify without the jury present, as happened earlier in the week.

This is the text of the Sixth Amendment:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, 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.

No need to mention the Eighth’s prohibition against excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment, nor the Fifth’s double jeopardy clause since the first trial ended in a hung jury, probably due to all that nonsense about constitutional rights to free speech, assembly and bearing arms that this jury will not hear.

Protesters outside courthouse. (R-J pix)

 

 

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Newspaper column: Bundy case judge trying to prevent jury nullification

The retrial of four defendants in the 2014 Bunkerville standoff at the Bundy ranch got underway this past week in Las Vegas, and this time the prosecution and the judge seem determined to avoid another mistrial due to a hung jury by eviscerating defense arguments.

Federal Judge Gloria Navarro granted a prosecution motion to bar presentation of evidence “supporting jury nullification.”

In April, the first of three scheduled trials for the 17 Bunkerville defendants — charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy, extortion, assault and impeding federal officers — ended in a mistrial. The jury found only two of six people on trial guilty of some charges but deadlocked on the others.

The standoff occurred after heavily armed Bureau of Land Management agents attempted to confiscate Bundy’s cattle after he had refused for 20 years to pay grazing fees. Faced with armed protesters the agents eventually released the cattle.

Two more trials are pending, with Cliven Bundy and his four sons scheduled to be the last. Most defendants have been jailed without bail for a year and half.

In mid-June the prosecution filed a motion asking the judge to bar the jurors in the retrial from hearing certain so-called state of mind arguments — arguments that the defendants felt justified to show up and protest because of “perceived government misconduct” due to excessive use of force by law enforcement and that they were simply exercising their First and Second Amendment rights.

The defense will not be allowed to mention the tasering by law enforcement of one of Bundy’s sons and the wrestling to the ground of one of his sisters.

The judge said the reasons the defendants went to Bunkerville are not relevant to the charge, but she will allow prosecutors to introduce testimony about the four men’s associations with militia groups.

“The Court also rejected Defendants’ proposed instructions on the First and Second Amendment because they are not legally cognizable defenses, or in other words, the law does not recognize these Amendments as legal defenses to the crimes charged,” Navarro wrote, though the Bill of Rights were added to the Constitution to spell out natural rights that Congress must not trammel with its laws.

The First Amendment bars Congress from making laws abridging free speech and peaceful assembly, while the Second states the right to keep and bear arms may not be infringed.

But apparently those are not defenses against laws prohibiting behavior that causes federal officers to feel threatened.

Navarro concluded, “The Court will not permit argument, evidence, or testimony regarding Defendants’ beliefs about the constitution as such beliefs are irrelevant and a possible jury nullification attempt.”

The judge quoted a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, “Jury nullification occurs when a jury acquits a defendant, even though the government proved guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” And you thought jurors made that determination.

The concept of jury nullification dates to colonial days and is widely taught in journalism schools, because it involved printer John Peter Zinger who was indicted for criminal libel against the colonial governor and tried in 1735. His attorney Andrew Hamilton offered as a defense that what was printed was true, even though under the law truth was not a defense but rather a confirmation of guilt.

The judge at Zenger’s trial ruled that Hamilton could not present evidence as to the truth of the printed statements.

In his closing argument Hamilton declared, “It is the cause of liberty … and by an impartial and uncorrupt verdict have laid a noble foundation for securing to ourselves, our posterity, and our neighbors, that to which nature and the laws of our country have given us a right to liberty of both exposing and opposing arbitrary power (in these parts of the world at least) by speaking and writing truth.”

The jury quickly returned with a verdict of not guilty.

In 1794, Chief Justice John Jay said to jurors in a rare Supreme Court jury trial, “It may not be amiss, here, Gentlemen, to remind you of the good old rule, that on questions of fact, it is the province of the jury, on questions of law, it is the province of the court to decide. But it must be observed that by the same law, which recognizes this reasonable distribution of jurisdiction, you have nevertheless a right to take upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy.”

Did jurors in the first trial nullify the law or merely find the law was misapplied?

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.

Protests outside courthouse. (R-J pix)

Federal judge won’t allow Bundy defendants to present evidence that might’ve resulted in hung jury

Protesters outside courthouse during first Bunkerville standoff trial, which ended in a mistrial. (R-J pix)

railroad —  to convict with undue haste and by means of false charges or insufficient evidence; to push through hastily or without due consideration

Before jury selection began Monday in the retrial of four defendants in the 2014 Bunkerville standoff at the Bundy ranch federal Judge Gloria Navarro granted a prosecution motion to bar presentation of evidence “supporting jury nullification.”

In April, in the first of three scheduled trials for the Bunkerville defendants — charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy, extortion, assault and impeding federal officers — ended in a mistrial. The jury found only two of six people on trial guilty of some charges but deadlocked on the others. The jurors agreed to convict on only 10 of the 60 charges brought. None of the conspiracy charges stuck.

The standoff occurred after armed Bureau of Land Management agents attempted to roundup Bundy’s cattle after he had refused for 20 years to pay grazing fees in the Gold Butte area. The BLM said he owed $1 million in fees and penalties. Faced with armed protesters the BLM agents eventually released the cattle and left to avoid potential bloodshed.

Two more trials are pending, with Cliven Bundy and his four sons scheduled to be the last. Most defendants have been jailed without bail for a year and half.

Two of Bundy’s sons, who had been arrested on separate but similar charges of illegally occupying an Oregon wildlife refuge to protest the jailing of father and son ranchers under a terrrorism law for letting fires get out of control and burn a few acres of federal public land, were acquitted of those charges this past fall by a jury, along with their co-defendants.

In mid-June the prosecution filed a motion asking the judge to bar the jurors in the current trial in Las Vegas from ever even hearing certain so-called state of mind arguments — arguments that the defendants felt justified to show up and protest the confiscation of Bundy’s cattle because of abusive use of force by law enforcement and that they were simply exercising their First and Second Amendment rights.

Navarro noted in her ruling Monday that in the first trial she had rejected the Bill Rights arguments and that would stand for this trial. “The Court also rejected Defendants’ proposed instructions on the First and Second Amendment because they are not legally cognizable defenses, or in other words, the law does not recognize these Amendments as legal defenses to the crimes charged.” (navarro ruling)

A rather convoluted argument, but what else would one expect from those who see their jobs as enforcing laws rather than upholding rights.

The Bill of Rights were added to the Constitution in order to spell out certain inalienable rights that Congress must not trample with its laws.

First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech … or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Second Amendment: “… the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

But those are not defenses against laws prohibiting behavior that causes federal officers to feel threatened.

Navarro quoted from a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on the topic of jury nullification:

Jury nullification occurs when a jury acquits a defendant, even though the government proved guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. …  [J]uries do not have a right to nullify, and courts have no corresponding duty to ensure that juries are able to exercise this power, such as by giving jury instructions on the power to nullify. … On the contrary, “courts have the duty to forestall or prevent [nullification], whether by firm instruction or admonition or . . . dismissal of an offending juror,” because “it is the duty of juries in criminal cases to take the law from the court, and apply that law to the facts as they find them to be from the evidence.”

Juries are just rubber-stamps.

Navarro concluded, “The Court will not permit argument, evidence, or testimony regarding Defendants’ beliefs about the constitution as such beliefs are irrelevant and a possible jury nullification attempt.”

The concept of jury nullification dates to colonial days and is widely taught in journalism schools, because it involved printer John Peter Zinger who was indicted for criminal libel against the colonial governor and tried in 1735. His attorney Andrew Hamilton offered as a defense that what was printed was true, even though under the law truth was not a defense but rather a confirmation of guilt.

The judge at Zenger’s trial ruled that Hamilton could not present evidence of the truth of the printed statements. “The law is clear that you cannot justify a libel,” the judge said. “The jury may find that Zenger printed and published those papers, and leave to the Court to judge whether they are libelous.”

Here is a portion of Hamilton’s closing argument:

It is natural, it is a privilege, I will go farther, it is a right, which all free men claim, that they are entitled to complain when they are hurt. They have a right publicly to remonstrate against the abuses of power in the strongest terms, to put their neighbors upon their guard against the craft or open violence of men in authority, and to assert with courage the sense they have of the blessings of liberty, the value they put upon

Andrew Hamilton arguing Zenger case.

it, and their resolution at all hazards to preserve it as one of the greatest blessings heaven can bestow. …

The loss of liberty, to a generous mind, is worse than death. And yet we know that there have been those in all ages who for the sake of preferment, or some imaginary honor, have freely lent a helping hand to oppress, nay to destroy, their country. … This is what every man who values freedom ought to consider. He should act by judgment and not by affection or self-interest; for where those prevail, no ties of either country or kindred are regarded; as upon the other hand, the man who loves his country prefers its liberty to all other considerations, well knowing that without liberty life is a misery. …

But to conclude: The question before the Court and you, Gentlemen of the jury, is not of small or private concern. It is not the cause of one poor printer, nor of New York alone, which you are now trying. No! It may in its consequence affect every free man that lives under a British government on the main of America. It is the best cause. It is the cause of liberty. And I make no doubt but your upright conduct this day will not only entitle you to the love and esteem of your fellow citizens, but every man who prefers freedom to a life of slavery will bless and honor you as men who have baffled the attempt of tyranny, and by an impartial and uncorrupt verdict have laid a noble foundation for securing to ourselves, our posterity, and our neighbors, that to which nature and the laws of our country have given us a right to liberty of both exposing and opposing arbitrary power (in these parts of the world at least) by speaking and writing truth.

The jury quickly returned with a verdict of not guilty.

 

 

If judge calls Bundy defendant a ‘bully vigilante’ during sentencing, how fairly will others be treated?

Gerald DeLemus (Facebook)

The first man to be sentenced for charges growing out the Bundy ranch standoff in April 2014 is to be imprisoned for more than seven years, even though he did not arrive at the ranch until hours after it ended when BLM agents released Cliven Bundy’s cattle rather than risk a shootout with armed protesters.

Gerald “Jerry” DeLemus of New Hampshire pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to commit an offense against the U.S. and interstate travel in aid of extortion. U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro sentenced DeLemus to year longer than expected, saying she faulted him for trying to withdraw his plea and that she didn’t think he accepted responsibility for his deeds.

The judge also called DeLemus “a bully vigilante, threatening peacekeepers of the community.” Can’t help but wonder how the other defendants who were actually at the standoff will fare before this judge. Might attorneys quote that in arguments seeking a different judge who has not yet made up her mind?

After showing up at the Bundy ranch DeLemus camped out for a month helping to organize arms patrols and acting as a spokesman for the militia members.

One of the reasons DeLemus may have tried to withdraw his plea is how the case against others is turning out.

Two of Cliven Bundy’s sons, who had been arrested on separate but similar charges of illegally occupying an Oregon wildlife refuge to protest the jailing of father and son ranchers under a terrrorism law for letting fires get out of control and burn a few acres of federal public land, were acquitted of those charges this past fall by a jury, along with their co-defendants.

In April, the first of three scheduled trials for the Bunkerville defendants — charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy, extortion, assault and impeding federal officers — ended in a mistrial. The jury found only two of six people on trial guilty of some charges but deadlocked on the others. The jurors agreed to convict on only 10 of the 60 charges brought. None of the conspiracy charges stuck.

The four defendants against whom jurors were deadlocked on all charges are scheduled to be retried in July, meaning the other defendants might not face trial till next year, after having been jailed without bail for two years.

One other person has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing, as are the two convicted in the April trial.

DeLemus, who co-chaired the New Hampshire Veterans for Trump coalition, reportedly will seek a pardon from Trump and ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions to intervene in the prison sentence.

DeLemus’ wife Susan, a former two-term Republican state representative in New Hampshire, has been quoted as saying her husband signed his guilty plea to “take the fall.”

DeLemus told the court that he crossed the country with his guns because he had heard government snipers were posted on the ranch and said was willing to “take a bullet” to protect the family. “My concern was that someone would get hurt,” he was quoted as saying. “It wasn’t the cows. I didn’t want that family injured. God will know in the end.”

He also quoted a Bible passage about there being no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. “I may not have given it out there,” he said. “I’m giving it now, in jail.”

Bunkerville standoff (Reuters pix)

 

Bundy to sue judge, Reid and others claiming constitutional rights violated

In a rambling and rather disjointed lawsuit that reportedly will be filed today, Cliven Bundy claims his constitutional rights are being violated by the judge in his criminal case, Gloria Navarro, as well as Sen. Harry Reid, his son Rory Reid and President Barack Obama.

Cliven Bundy (R-J photo)

Bundy and 18 others face charges over the 2014 armed standoff with BLM agents who attempted to confiscate his cattle, which he had been grazing on public land without permits since 1993. He and his co-defendants are jailed without bail on charges that include obstruction of justice, conspiracy, extortion, assault and impeding federal officers.

The suit asks for dismissal of the indictment, $50 million in damages, seeks to have Bundy freed from solitary confinement and alleges violations of his Sixth Amendment right by denying him right of counsel and right to speedy trial; his Eighth Amendment right to not face cruel or unusual punishment since he would be jailed for a year without conviction; his First Amendment right to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances; and his Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Much of the suit is devoted to objections that the judge has refused to allow out of state attorney Larry Klayman to represent Bundy. It accuses the judge of doing the bidding of Reid, who nominated her, and Obama, who appointed her. It even accused of her of racial bias as a Latina.

The facts section of the suit begins with the accusation against Reid:

On or about March 24, 2014 for a period of days leading into April 2016, Defendant HARRY REID’S hand-picked Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Neil Kornze, a longtime REID aide, at the direction of Defendant HARRY REID ordered and sent the equivalent of federal storm-troopers to Plaintiff BUNDY’S ranch to seize his and his family’s land and capture and/or harm his cattle, at the direction of Defendant HARRY REID.

It notes that Reid owns 93 acres of land next to Bundy’s ranch and claims, “He thus coveted his neighbor’s property and chattels.”

It accuses the Reids and Obama of making defamatory statements about Bundy and claims the Reids wanted to acquire the land so it could be sold to a “communist Chinese” company — an apparent reference to rumors about a Chinese solar panel maker seeking build a plant in Clark County.

An Obama joke at a dinner in 2014 about Bundy using the word “negro” is also quoted, though the date is mistakenly listed as 2016.

It also claims:

Following the arrest and indictment of Plaintiff BUNDY, in order to telegraph to and instruct Defendant Navarro his desire not to see Bundy released from solitary confinement in prison, convicted and otherwise bankrupted and otherwise harmed such that Defendants HARRY and RORY REID could obtain and sell the Bundy’s land for their own profit or kickbacks, as both are highly corrupt, Defendant HARRY REID had publicly published in the Las Vegas Review Journal and other media as a means to communicate and instruct Defendant NAVARRO on how to proceed against Defendant BUNDY and to poison any jury pool at trial.

This is followed by a copy of an entire R-J news story in which Sen. Reid accuses 70-year-old Bundy of domestic terrorism. The also quotes Bundy’s attorney Joel Hansen as asking: “Is Harry Reid the judge in this case or is he trying to improperly influence and poison the jury pool so that they will follow his opinion when they get to the jury box?”

A copy of the suit is posted on Klayman’s website.