A judge on Wednesday denied Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy’s request to represent himself at trial next month on charges related to a 2014 standoff with the Bureau of Land Management.
Defense attorney Bret Whipple, whom Bundy retained, filed court papers last week in which he asked to withdraw from Bundy’s case.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen asked Bundy a series of questions in order to determine whether he could act as his own lawyer in what is expected to be a lengthy trial with six other defendants.
When Leen asked whether Bundy was ready for the trial, set to begin Oct. 10, he replied, “Well I doubt it.” But he added that he was not asking to postpone the trial.
As the judge inquired further about his understanding of trial procedures, Bundy said, “I understand very little of it, but I reserve my right to do the best I can.”
Leen read through the charges against Bundy, while the acting U.S. Attorney detailed the possible sentences, which could land Bundy in prison for the rest of his life.
The judge decided Whipple should remain as the trial attorney.
One of the rancher’s sons, Ryan, who also is a defendant in the case, already represents himself.
Angela Dows, Ryan Bundy’s standby attorney, also has asked to withdraw from the case, citing a “repugnant” correspondence from the defendant and a “fundamental disagreement” between the two. No ruling has been made on that request.
Prosecutors have alleged that Cliven Bundy, a Gold Butte rancher, conspired to thwart the federal government’s roundup of roughly 1,000 cows from public land near Bunkerville in April 2014.
It will be the third trial in the case.
While jurors from the first trial could not decide on charges against four men, the panel returned convictions against two standoff participants: Arizona resident Gregory Burleson and Idaho resident Todd Engel. Burleson received a 68-year prison term, and Engel is awaiting sentencing.