A federal judge declared a mistrial on Wednesday in the case against Cliven Bundy and his co-defendants, stemming from their 2014 standoff in Nevada with the Bureau of Land Management over grazing rights.
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro ruled that federal prosecutors unlawfully withheld information they were required to turn over to the defense including surveillance video, maps and FBI interview information, the Las Vegas Journal Review reported. The judge stated prosecutors knew or should have known of the existence of this evidence that may have been helpful to Cliven, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and co-defendant Ryan Payne.
“Considered collectively, she said, the evidence that was withheld was favorable to the defendants and its untimely disclosure was prejudicial in that it ‘undermined the confidence of the outcome of the trial,’” Navarro found, according to the Journal Review.
The men are accused of conspiring to block federal agents from enforcing a court order to confiscate the Bundys’ cattle, which was grazing on public lands.
“Cliven Bundy had failed to pay grazing fees and fines for years,” according to The Associated Press. “The men are also charged with firearms crimes, threatening a federal law enforcement officer, obstruction of justice and extortion in a trial that began (on Nov. 14) in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas.”
Bundy contended the federal government lacks the constitutional authority to own vast tracks of western lands, stating it instead belongs to the states and the people. He and the others present were protesting what they contended was unlawful conduct by the federal government in seizing his cattle.
As previously reported by The Western Journal, a federal whistleblower sent a memo to the Department of Justice last month alleging malfeasance in the handling of the investigation in the Bundy Ranch standoff.
Special agent Larry Wooten, who worked on the investigation (until being removed in February), wrote in the 18-page memo, “I routinely observed, and the investigation revealed a widespread pattern of bad judgment, lack of discipline, incredible bias, unprofessionalism and misconduct, as well as likely policy, ethical, and legal violations among senior and supervisory staff.”
He added their actions, “adversely affected our agency’s mission and likely the trial regarding Cliven Bundy and his alleged co-conspirators and ignored the letter and the intent of the law.”
Wooten chronicled in his memo that those overseeing the investigation showed clear prejudice against the Bundys, their supporters and the Mormon faith, which the ranchers profess.
BLM agents prominently displayed booking photos with “X’s” drawn over the faces of the Bundys, according to Wooten.
The agent recounted that when he reported what he was seeing to the agent-in-charge of the investigation, Dan Love, he came to realize the supervisor was “aware of the issues, participated in, or instigated the misconduct himself.”
Wooten accused Love, who was in charge of the cattle roundup at the Bundy ranch, of intentionally ignoring direction from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and his superiors “in order to command the most intrusive, oppressive, large scale and militaristic trespass cattle impound possible.”
Washington state Rep. Matt Shea, spoke out forcefully to the media last week after seeing Wooten’s memo, stating in an interview with Redoubt News, “a sniper rifle is not due process.”
“The government in the trial was saying, or at least implying that there were no snipers on site, and then this document details that there were in fact snipers on site,” Shea told The Western Journal. “These were being pointed at Americans who were protesting lawfully.”
The representative has been a longtime advocate for significant portions of federal lands held in the west being turned over to the states. Shea said the clear bias shown by the investigators is exculpatory and can be used to impeach the government witnesses at the Bundy trial. He noted that Navarro cited the Wooten memo in her Wednesday ruling.
According to ABC affiliate KTNV, a new trial in the Bundy case will likely begin in February. Based on what he has seen, Shea does not believe a mistrial is an adequate remedy.
“The withheld evidence doesn’t just give reason for a mistrial,” he said. “It looks like there needs to be a dismissal.”
Shea added: “I don’t think this stops with a mistrial and a dismissal, I think this continues with an investigation,” into the BLM.
Fox News reported that “jurors acquitted (Ammon and Ryan Bundy) of taking over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon for more than a month in early 2016 and amid calls for the U.S. government to turn over public land to local control.”