Federal judge declares mistrial in Bundy case

A federal judge has declared a mistrial in the case against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. (Screen capture, YouTube, CNN)

A mistrial was declared Wednesday in the federal case against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, his sons Ryan and Ammon, and Ryan Payne, described by Fox News as “a self-styled Montana militia leader.”

While there are questions whether a new trial will actually occur, Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro in Las Vegas reportedly set Feb. 26, 2018 as the date for a new trial to begin, according to U.S. News and Reuters.

The Bundys and Payne had been accused in connection with a high-profile standoff against federal agents more than three years ago in Nevada that drew national attention. In a separate case, the Bundy sons had been charged in connection with the takeover of a federal wildlife refuge office in southeast Oregon early in 2016, but they were acquitted in that case.

One man was killed by Oregon State Police in connection with that standoff. LaVoy Finicum became something of a martyr among Bundy supporters, who oppose federal land management policies. The case became a hot political debate.

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The elder Bundy has been engaged in a long dispute over non-payment of grazing fees for use of public land. Fox noted that Bundy maintains the public land belongs to the states rather than the federal government.

In declaring the mistrial, Judge Navarro reportedly blamed federal prosecutors for withholding critical evidence from defense attorneys. This evidence reportedly included records relating to the conduct of federal agents with the FBI and Bureau of Land Management. According to Reuters, Judge Navarro “told federal prosecutors that they had willfully violated evidence rules and failed to turn over pertinent documents to the defense.”

The protest at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was ignited by a conflict between the government and a Beaver State rancher, but it took on a larger life after the Bundy group called for turnover of federal lands to the states.

Environmental groups oppose that idea, arguing that it would open up sensitive wildlands for exploitation.

Down in Nevada, the elder Bundy had argued that his family had grazed cattle for more than 100 years on the disputed land. Things got tense when federal agents moved in to round up the cattle. Anti-government activists traveled to Nevada from all over the West to support Bundy. Many of them were visibly armed, and there were some tense moments.

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