Ryan Bundy, accused of leading the 2014 standoff near his father’s ranch in Bunkerville, testified Tuesday that the charges detailed in the 16-count indictment against him describe the actions of federal agents who tried to impound his father’s cattle.
“The wrong people are in jail,” Bundy testified during an unusual, six-hour detention hearing at which the rancher’s son, who has been incarcerated for a year, argued for his release pending trial on extortion, conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, and other charges resulting from the April 2014 confrontation.
The hearing began with a 90-minute statement from Bundy in which he declared America a “union of sovereign states,” and denounced a “totalitarian” government. It included hours of bickering between Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myrhe and Bundy, who in deciding to testify subjected himself to cross-examination by the government. It ended — after tearful testimony from Bundy’s wife about his kindness — with Bundy playing a video about the standoff published by Alex Jones’s Infowars website
U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley did not immediately rule on Bundy’s request for pretrial release, and said he would issue a written ruling later.
Bundy, who is representing himself, appeared in court Friday dressed in a blue prison jumpsuit and smiled at his wife and eight children sitting in the front row. Throughout the day, he insisted that Bureau of Land Management agents were the aggressors, prepared to “conduct battle” on a peaceful group of
protesters. The standoff occurred after a court ordered the BLM to seize rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle as a result of unpaid grazing fees; amid armed protests, federal agents later released the cattle and left. “The West has now been won,” Ryan Bundy declared at the time. BLM agents, he contends, did not have the authority to act on the court order and should have removed themselves sooner.
At one point, when Myhre was scrolling through pictures included in the government’s voluminous evidence, Bundy interjected when a picture of several federal agents with their guns raised during the standoff was displayed on the screen.
“Ahh, look at that,” he said. “Look at them, look at how their weapons are raised.”
“Mr. Bundy, this is not some show for you, this is a court of law,” Myhre snapped at him, more than an hour into cross-examination.
The prosecutor tried, in cross-examination, to show that Bundy and his fellow protesters did pose a threat. He tried to draw testimony about Bundy’s opinion of the court order’s validity in an effort to prove to the judge that Bundy did not respect court rulings.
Earlier, Myhre had shown Bundy pictures of other men charged in the case, aiming long guns through a crack in a jersey barrier on a bridge above Toquop Wash, where the bulk of the confrontation occurred. Bundy said they were keeping the peace.
“How is he keeping the peace by aiming a long gun through a crack in a jersey barrier?” Myhre asked.
Bundy, after more back-and-forth, replied that the man was “protecting freedom for the people.”
In the second picture, Myhre asked if “this man right here had the same duty to protect the people.”
“Absolutely, according to the constitution,” Bundy said.
“What law enforcement agency is he with?”
“The militia,” replied Bundy, who frequently referenced protesters’ Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.
Bundy’s wife and a family friend also testified on his behalf. Dozens of family and friends packed the small third-floor courtroom at the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse on Thursday. They knelt in prayer outside the courtroom in the morning before testimony began.
Bundy’s hearing precedes the first trial in the case, which opens next week. Bundy is not scheduled to stand trial for several more weeks.
Contact Jenny Wilson at email@example.com or 702-384-8710. Follow @jennydwilson on Twitter.