AG Sessions orders examination of Bundy case after mistrial over prosecution bungling
Government failed to turn over evidence
Attorney General Jeff Sessions stepped into the Bundy prosecution after Wednesday’s mistrial, ordering a third-party examination of the case in light of the latest government snafu.
“The attorney general takes this issue very seriously and has personally directed that an expert in the [Justice Department’s] discovery obligations be deployed to examine the case and advise as to the next steps,” said Ian D. Prior, the department’s principal deputy director of public affairs, in a late Wednesday statement.
The decision to intervene came after Chief U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro declared a mistrial over the government’s “willful failure to disclose information” to the defense, saying it would have been “impossible” for the four co-defendants to receive a fair trial.
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and Ryan Payne of Montana have been charged with 15 felony counts stemming from the 2014 armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management at the Bundy ranch near Bunkerville.
The examination represents the first direct public intervention by the attorney general in the Nevada case, which began last year under then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Acting U.S. Attorney Steven W. Myhre, who oversees the prosecution, said he welcomed the input from D.C.
“We respect the ruling of the court and take very seriously our discovery obligations,” Mr. Myhre said in a statement. “The office welcomes the assistance of the attorney general as we continue to evaluate the case in light of the court’s ruling.”
No deadline was given for the attorney general’s examination, but Judge Navarro set a Jan. 8 hearing on defense motions to dismiss the case. The next trial is tentatively scheduled to begin Feb. 26.
The case, which involves 19 defendants spread over three tiers, has been riddled with setbacks for the prosecution, including a previous mistrial, hung juries and acquittals on lesser figures in the April 2014 armed confrontation with BLM agents.
Judge Navarro said the prosecutors had willfully failed to disclose key evidence in the case, including FBI records about surveillance and government snipers at the Bundy ranch, activity logs, law enforcement threat assessments showing the Bundy family posed no threat of violence, and internal reports about BLM agent misconduct.
She dismissed the jury after seven weeks in the latest trial involving the second of the three tiers of co-defendants.
All four in the latest trial are considered leaders of the confrontation with the BLM, which began after agents tried to impound the ranch’s cattle following Cliven Bundy’s refusal for years to pay grazing fees in a protest over federal land management.