By Maxine Bernstein | The Oregonian/OregonLive | April 07, 2017 at 5:34 PM
Federal prosecutors in Nevada have asked a judge to schedule the second Bunkerville conspiracy trial for rancher Cliven Bundy, his sons Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy and other leading defendants stemming from the 2014 armed standoff near the family ranch for no earlier than June 5.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre urged the court to set a definitive date to help lawyers on both sides prepare for the second trial and assist witnesses in making travel arrangements.
The request comes as the prosecutors are still in the initial trial involving a first round of six co-defendants that began Feb. 6 and has lasted nearly two months.
Prosecutors anticipate calling about 60 witnesses, twice as many as the approximately 35 the government has so far called during the initial trial, Myhre wrote.
Initially, the court had planned the second trial to start 30 days after the end date of the first trial. But Myhre said the lack of a specific date leaves “too much uncertainty” for legal preparation.
In Nevada, the Bundys face 16 felony counts, including extortion, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer, assault on a federal officer, and threatening a federal officer.
In a related matter, defendant Pete Santilli supports a June 5 trial date but also has asked that he be tried separately from the Bundys, concerned his co-defendants haven’t been aggressively preparing for trial but more focused on protesting their jail conditions.
Santilli’s lawyer also doesn’t want to face “guilt by association” because he played a different role from his co-defendants, serving as an independent broadcaster covering the standoff, his lawyer Chris T. Rasmussen wrote in a legal brief.
Prosecutors have alleged that Santilli recruited gunmen to the Bundy Ranch, threatened violence to law enforcement, helped lead an assault on U.S. Bureau of Land Management officers trying to roundup cattle on federal land, conducted reconnaissance of hotels where federal officers were staying, delivered an ultimatum to the BLM’s agent in charge to leave the impound site and incited followers and gunmen to participate in an assault on federal officers on April 12, 2014.
In his latest motion, Santilli sought to distance himself from the actions of Ammon Bundy, who has been protesting jail strip searches, and was led into federal court in Nevada one day in his underwear. Bundy is being held at the Nevada Southern Detention Center in Pahrump, Nevada, which is about 63 miles west of Las Vegas.
“Santilli’s other trial defendants, except Cliven Bundy, have decided it is more important to protest jail procedures they feel violate their rights instead of preparing for a defense in the upcoming case in which they are facing life in prison,” Rasmussen wrote. “These actions are endangering Santilli’s defense.”
Santilli’s girlfriend and broadcast partner Deb Jordan said Santilli supports the Bundys’ “moral choice to protest” but is frustrated with the process.
Ammon Bundy and his brother Ryan Bundy were acquitted of conspiracy and weapons charges in late October stemming from the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon after a five-week trial in federal court in Portland. Santilli, initially indicted on a conspiracy charge in the Oregon case, had all federal charges dismissed against him on the eve of the refuge takeover trial in Portland last fall.
— Maxine Bernstein