Feds’ case against rancher Bundy in doubt as mistrial declared over prosecutorial misconduct

by WorldTribune Staff, December 21, 2017

The judge in the government’s case against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy declared a mistrial on Dec. 20, saying prosecutors had willfully withheld “potentially exculpatory” evidence from the defense.

After declaring a mistrial, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro dismissed the jury in the case related to the 2014 armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Ammon Bundy and Carol Bundy, son and wife of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, speak with reporters outside a federal courthouse in Las Vegas on Dec. 20. / AP

Navarro said that the mistrial did not mean that the withheld evidence would have cleared the defendants but said the failure to produce it “undermined the confidence in the outcome of the trial.”

The judge cited evidence that the prosecution should have but failed to provide the defense, including FBI surveillance and sniper records, unredacted activity logs, a threat assessment about the Bundys from 2012, and BLM internal affairs documents.

“The defense has a right to information so it can provide it to the jury so the jury can decide,” the judge said, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The Justice Department released a statement on Dec. 20 saying that Attorney General Jeff Sessions “takes this issue very seriously and has personally directed that an expert in the Department’s discovery be deployed to examine the case and advise as to next steps.”

Related: Jury refuses to convict four defendants in Nevada ranch standoff, Aug. 23, 2017

Judge Navarro tentatively set a new trial date for Feb. 26 but also scheduled a hearing for Jan. 8, which is expected to feature defense arguments to dismiss the charges against co-defendants Cliven Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and Ryan Payne for leading the armed standoff.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Ryan Bundy told reporters outside the Las Vegas courthouse. “So now we’ve got to go through a few more steps and get this properly dismissed. There’s a lot more to do, but we’re glad to have this step done.”

Ammon Bundy said the judge “talked about our family, my dad, how he wasn’t prone to be violent. It was good to hear her say that and bring those things up – that they did provoke us. That this was something that they came heavy-handed upon us,” he told NBC News3 in Las Vegas. “They came on us and provoked us, and tried to use threats, tried to get us to act.”

The mistrial dealt another blow to the feds’ case against 19 defendants charged in the standoff. The first trial involving six of the 19 defendants, held in April of this year, resulted in a hung jury.

A retrial of four of the six resulted in jurors finding two of the defendants not guilty on all charges, acquitting the other two of most charges and deadlocking on other counts.

In October 2016, an Oregon jury acquitted all seven defendants, including Ammon and Ryan Bundy, charged in connection to the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Carol Bundy, Cliven Bundy’s wife, said in an interview with Who’s Next outside the courthouse that the mistrial may cause critics to re-evaluate their assumptions about the ranching family.

“I do think the press is shocked,” Carol Bundy said. “They’ve been saying, ‘The Bundys are terrorists, the Bundys are this and the Bundys are that,’ and all of a sudden the tables are turning and we’re seeing the prosecutors are the ones who have lied.”

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