Lifelong Southern Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, recently cleared of federal charges and freed from jail after nearly two years, has turned his sights on state and county government.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Clark County District Court, Bundy claimed that former President Barack Obama’s late 2016 establishment of the Gold Butte National Monument, which occurred while the rancher was in federal custody, was “as illegal as it is unlawful” and would preclude him from continuing to function on his land “and destroy the petitioner’s livelihood.”
Bureau of Land Management officials in Las Vegas postponed discussion of the monument at its meetings this month until the Trump administration decides on possible changes to the Obama-era land designation.
“Recognizing that the land is not owned by the United States of America, (Bundy) has avoided erroneously giving money to an entity which does not actually own the land and has been careful not to give money erroneously to a stranger to the land,” according to the rancher’s lawsuit. “Thus, there is an actual, significant legal controversy of great consequence not only to petitioner in terms of as to whom has ownership and jurisdiction of the land but to People of Nevada and Clark county, the rightful owners of Nevada land.”
Two days after federal judge suggested the possibility of a mistrial in the Bunkerville standoff case, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and a group of Nevada newspapers asked to unseal trial documents discussed behind closed courtroom doors.
‘There is insufficient basis to maintain certain motions and transcripts under seal in this case and to continue to close hearings to the public,” the motion filed Wednesday evening states. “Sealing documents and closing hearings is inimical to this Country’s and this Court’s long tradition of open trials, guaranteed by both the First Amendment and common law — a right of access that is always important, but particularly critical in this case.”
Ammon Bundy, on trial with his rancher father Cliven Bundy, was released from jail Thursday morning.
A crowd of about 50 supporters and family members, including Ammon Bundy’s wife and six children, cheered and hugged him as he walked out of the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse in downtown Las Vegas.
His brother, Ryan, another defendant facing a jury on charges connected with the 2014 armed standoff in Bunkerville, was among those in the crowd. The two hugged briefly before Ammon Bundy spoke with reporters.
“Freedom is important,” he said, wearing a blue-and-white plaid shirt, bluejeans and orange sandals. “It’s important because of our families. It’s important because of the great things we enjoy every day as Americans. America has always been an example of freedom, an example of family, an example of what’s good in this world. And really all my family has ever tried to do is just promote that.”
Cliven Bundy, lead defendant in a case stemming from a 2014 standoff with federal agents and the 71-year-old patriarch of a family with roots in the southeastern Nevada desert since the state was founded more than 150 years ago, won’t let his lawyer buy him a suit for trial.
Instead of the standard slacks, button-down shirt and tie that incarcerated male defendants often don while facing a jury, the recalcitrant rancher plans to wear a jail-issued blue jumpsuit and orange flip-flops when he faces potential jurors for the first time on Monday morning.
“He is so principled that he’s going to do what he’s going to do, which is tell the truth and tell it as he sees it, and he’s not worried about the consequences, other than the people around him,” his lawyer, Bret Whipple, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week. “He refuses to put on civilian clothing because it would be misleading the jury, because he is who he is.”
Bundy, his two sons Ryan and Ammon and independent militia leader Ryan Payne have been locked up without bail in a federal holding facility for nearly two years. They face the potential of decades behind bars if convicted of conspiracy and other charges related to the armed standoff.
A defendant has asked to postpone next week’s trial for seven Bunkerville ranch standoff defendants in the wake of Sunday night’s massacre in Las Vegas.
“This is not the time to pick a jury and commence trial in this case,” attorneys for independent militia leader Ryan Payne wrote in court papers filed late Monday, referring to the shooting that left at least 59 dead and resulted in hundreds of injuries. “It is clear that this unprecedented act of violence will prevent the defendants from having a fair trial in this city one week from now.”
Meanwhile, Pete Santilli, who has argued that he was a journalist covering the confrontation between the Bundy family and law enforcement, has agreed to plead guilty to felony conspiracy, his lawyer Chris Rasmussen told U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro on Tuesday.
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.
Las Vegas officials have a new vision for developing a unique piece of land surrounded by sensitive land packed with environmental and cultural resources.
The plan sets out expectations for future development of 1,000 acres situated between the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, Paiute tribal lands and the Las Vegas Wash, a channel that drains water from the valley into Lake Mead.
The plan conceives of “villages” with pockets of development separated by open spaces with open wash corridors and connected by walking, bike and equestrian trails at the northwestern reaches of the city’s Ward 6.
“Please send your money immediately to Ward 6,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman quipped last week, before the City Council approved the plan.
The city’s plan for the site establishes guidelines for future building in the quickly growing area, with green space buffers and open wash corridors, to curb the impact of development on the surrounding natural areas.
A federal judge on Thursday set an October trial date for seven Bunkerville standoff defendants, including rancher Cliven Bundy.
Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Idaho, where at least five defendants lived before being arrested, are asking U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to release the four Idaho defendants who remain in custody.
An Aug. 29 letter authored by Idaho Rep. Dorothy Moon, a Republican, and signed by 38 other state legislators references recent acquittals in the case. A copy of the letter, addressed to Sessions, was sent to President Donald Trump.
“Further exploitation of these citizens would be an affront to justice and notice to the public of prosecutorial harassment,” the letter states.
Steven Stewart of Idaho and Ricky Lovelien of Montana were found not guilty in August during a retrial in which Scott Drexler and Eric Parker, both Idaho residents, were acquitted of a majority of charges they faced.
The only specifics Heller offered concern Gold Butte in northeastern Clark County, where the monument’s northern boundary is expected to be moved to “carve out” six springs that represent the future water supply for the communities of Mesquite and Bunkerville.
Heller did not say what changes Zinke recommended for Basin and Range National Monument in remote Lincoln and Nye counties.
The Virgin Valley Water District requested the change to Gold Butte during Zinke’s July 30 tour of the two monuments.
Water District General Manager Kevin Brown has said that moving the monument’s northern boundary 5 or 6 miles to the south would cut about 24 square miles from the roughly 460-square-mile monument.
Monument advocates have threatened to sue over any changes made to Gold Butte or Basin and Range.
Members of the environmental lobby should be ecstatic that the Interior Department’s review of 27 national monuments resulted in minimal changes. But in today’s world of all-or-nothing politics, they’re instead speed-dialing their attorneys and wringing their hands because a handful of these nature reserves may still be partially downsized.
Oh, the horror!
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke completed the review last week. He recommended that no designation be rescinded. But a spokesman said he has also proposed border modifications for a handful of monuments. The department has yet to name those areas, but they could include Nevada’s Gold Butte and Basin and Range.
In the wake of a nearly complete acquittal of four defendants in the 2014 Bunkerville standoff retrial this week, a group of defendants still waiting to face a jury want a judge to release them from federal detention, where they have been held for more than a year.
Militia founder Ryan Payne stated in court papers through his attorneys Brenda Weksler and Ryan Norwood that “the arguments in favor of releasing these remaining defendants based on due process grounds have only become stronger.”
At the center of the second group of five defendants still awaiting trial is Cliven Bundy, the Gold Butte rancher prosecutors allege conspired to thwart the federal government’s roundup of roughly 1,000 cows from public land. Bundy’s lawyer, Bret Whipple, joined Payne’s motion Friday.
After more than two days of deliberation, jurors are expected to return Monday in the retrial of four men facing federal charges in the 2014 armed standoff in Bunkerville.
On Tuesday, the panel of six women and six men started deliberating the charges against Idaho men Steven Stewart, Scott Drexler and Eric Parker, and Montana resident Ricky Lovelien. Jurors were sent home at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday and are expected to resume deliberations Monday morning, defense attorneys said.
During closing arguments this week, prosecutors pointed to social media posts in which the men discussed the activities in the rural Nevada town, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. On a video played for jurors, rancher Cliven Bundy spoke to a crowd outside his ranch, encouraging his followers to do what they needed to do to retrieve his cattle from the Bureau of Land Management.
Defense attorneys sat silently Tuesday, rather than give closing arguments for the four men facing a retrial in the Bundy Ranch standoff.
Hamstrung throughout the trial by a judge’s decision to limit the witnesses they could call, the questions they could ask and the testimony their clients could give, the lawyers made the final decision, a statement of sorts, after discussing the option with the defendants — Eric Parker, Scott Drexler, Steven Stewart and Ricky Lovelien — during a lunch break.
“It was a strategic decision,” said lawyer Jess Marchese, who represents Parker. “We thought we gained more by not giving a closing argument than the government giving a rebuttal.”
By David Ferrara Las Vegas Review-Journal August 14, 2017 Scott Drexler tucked the butt of his AR-15 into his shoulder and slipped the barrel through a crack in a wall along a northbound Interstate 15 bridge in Bunkerville. Under the […]
A federal judge in Las Vegas cut short the testimony of an Idaho gun enthusiast in the middle of his Bunkerville standoff retrial Thursday.
Eric Parker was photographed in April 2014 pointing a long gun through a barrier on an Interstate 15 overpass that overlooked a sandy ditch where protesters had gathered to face Bureau of Land Management agents.
Prosecutors first objected to Parker’s testimony about 20 minutes after he took the stand and uttered the words “First Amendment.”
Before the start of the second trial for Parker, a married father of two, and three other men, U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro barred the defense from referencing constitutional rights to freely assemble and to bear arms. She also prohibited mention of alleged misconduct or excessive force by law enforcement.
With the jury box empty, defense attorneys called four witnesses Wednesday in the retrial of four Bunkerville standoff defendants.
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro allowed three men and one woman, each of whom attended the April 2014 protest, to give proffer statements or a preview of what they might tell a jury. But the judge ruled that jurors should not hear their testimony because none of them offered evidence of self-defense the men on trial hoped to claim.
All of the witnesses testified via Skype.
Prosecutors questioned their final witness Tuesday in the retrial of four Bunkerville standoff defendants, whose attorneys began preparing to present their case to jurors.
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro said she would allow one potential defense witness, who was at the 2014 armed standoff but not arrested, to give a proffer statement outside the presence of jurors Wednesday, while a private investigator could testify for the defense the next day.
After spending several hours on the witness stand detailing photographs and videos of the standoff and Bunkerville area, FBI special agent Joel Willis, a key government witness, responded to about 15 juror questions.
Navarro answered one question from the panel, indicating they would be able to review exhibits during deliberations.