The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled the Federal Bureau of Investigation must search for and produce records related to the agency’s impersonation of documentary filmmakers during investigations in response to a request from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press for more information about the practice.
After learning the FBI impersonated a documentary film crew to investigate Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his followers following a 2014 armed standoff between Bundy and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Reporters Committee requested access to records related to this practice under the Freedom of Information Act. The FBI issued what’s known as a Glomar response, refusing to confirm or deny the existence of records responsive to the Reporters Committee’s request. The Reporters Committee challenged that response, arguing that it was improper, and the D.C. District Court agreed.
Dwight and Steven Hammonds are back on the ranch, after a long and lengthy battle over grazing rights and property management. But even after a pardon and release from prison, the journey back to reinstating their grazing permits has just begun.
Ethan Lane, executive director of the Public Lands Council talked with host Chip Flory about the saga on AgriTalk during the 2019 Cattle Industry and NCBA Tradeshow.
The Hammonds were back-burning on private property, a normal ranching method to lower wildfire risk and control timber encroachment, when some federal lands caught on fire.
“That’s an important part of this,” Lane said. “It was a normal farming and ranching practice.”
The Justice Department filed an appeal Wednesday of its devastating defeat against Cliven Bundy in the Nevada standoff, disputing the federal judge’s decision last year to throw out the case based on prosecutorial wrongdoing.
The 88-page motion, filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, challenged Chief U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro’s blistering finding of “flagrant” misconduct, which prompted her to declare a mistrial in December 2017 and dismiss the charges a month later.
Federal prosecutors said Wednesday they plan to appeal their demoralizing defeat in the Nevada standoff trial, which saw a federal judge rebuke prosecutors for “flagrant misconduct” and dismiss all charges against rancher Cliven Bundy and two of his sons.
Elizabeth O. White, assistant U.S. attorney for Nevada, assured the court that the appeal would be filed by Feb. 6 after asking for a 14-day extension, saying the “review process is complete and the Solicitor General has authorized the government’s appeal.”
“Undersigned counsel further advises that the draft brief is nearly complete, editing of the completed portions has begun, and she has begun the laborious process of preparing the excerpts of record and updating the record citations in brief to the excerpts of record,” Ms. White said in the motion.
The Justice Department already had requested and received two extensions, but it was unclear until Wednesday whether prosecutors would go forward with the appeal.
Bundy attorney Larry Klayman condemned the decision to file the appeal, which would go before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. He accused the government of “circling the wagons” to protect prosecutors, including former Acting U.S. Attorney for Nevada Steven Myhre.
OJ Appellate Chief and Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth White revealed Francisco’s apparent indecision on Wednesday in a request to delay opening briefs in the case, which centers on a 2014 armed standoff between the Bundys and their supporters and the Bureau of Land Management.
“Despite the government’s diligent efforts, the Solicitor General’s review of the matter is not yet complete,” White wrote, pointing to the “massive” record in the case. “His Office, and the Solicitor General himself, are carefully reviewing the issues, the record, and the draft government brief.”
Ammon Bundy has called to the jurors of the Bunkerville Trial to view the hidden evidence in the case.
It has been well documented that the prosecution team, led by Steven Myhre, kept vital information from the jurors, as well as Judge Navarro.
Navarro, in December 2017, declared a mistrial in the case against Cliven Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy and Ryan Payne. She specifically cited several instances of “Brady violations” from the prosecution, evidence that was not turned over to the defense which could have benefited their case.
An example of the hidden information is the knowledge of government snipers overlooking the Bundy house during the days and weeks leading up to the Bunkerville standoff in 2014.
DISMISSAL IS CONSIDERED an extreme remedy for prosecutor misconduct. Judges often declare a mistrial but let the indictments stand, thus allowing prosecutors the option of taking the case before another grand jury.
As Myhre noted in his brief, the Chapman case seems to be the only ruling in which the 9th Circuit has ever upheld outright dismissal of indictments due to prosecutorial misconduct. And Navarro found plenty of similarities when comparing Damm’s misconduct in Chapman to Myhre’s actions in the Bundy trial.
As in Chapman, Myhre and his office failed to turn over hundreds of pages of evidence, particularly FBI reports, logs, maps, and threat assessments, Navarro found. And, like Damm, Myhre and his office made “several misrepresentations” to the defense and the court, both about the existence of certain evidence and its importance, she ruled.
In one instance, Navarro said, the prosecution made “a deliberate attempt to mislead and to obscure the truth.” At the mistrial hearing in December, she criticized Myhre for calling an internal affairs report about one of the Bundy investigators an “urban legend.” When the report surfaced, Myhre told the court his “urban legend” comment was “based on the government’s inability to verify its existence, let alone find it,” and not an attempt to deceive.
Federal prosecutors next week will seek a nearly 31/2-year sentence for Oregon refuge occupier Ryan Payne, the longest prison term yet for a defendant convicted in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
They described Payne as a central figure who helped orchestrate the armed occupation of the federal wildlife sanctuary, described by Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow as “one of the most extensive criminal activities in Oregon history.”
Payne repeatedly tried to persuade Harney County ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond not to surrender in January 2016 to complete five-year prison sentences for setting fire to public land. He also pressured Sheriff Dave Ward to intervene to prevent the Hammonds’ return to prison, prosecutors say.
The government submitted to the court a 91-page exhibit of recordings from weekly board meetings of the militia network Payne co-founded, Operation Mutual Defense, held in October, November and December 2015, the months preceding the refuge seizure. The board spoke of potential missions, including targeting radical Islam, intervening in the resettling of refugees in Montana and elsewhere, and attempting to free a federal prisoner by staging a “dynamic entry” into a prison by shielding militiamen within protesters.
Today, Attorney Morgan Philpot, representing Jeanette Finicum, widow of Lavoy Finicum Shot and Killed at blind curve roadblock by Oregon State Police and FBI agents on January 26th, 2016, filed the attached Civil Demand for a Jury Trial in Oregon Federal District Court.
Lavoy was driving his truck with passengers Ryan Bundy, Shawna Cox, Victoria Sharp and Ryan Payne, to a meeting with Sherrif Glenn Palmer in John Day. The murder and arrests marked the beginning of the end to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Harney County Oregon.
In a July 5, 2017 email, Ryan Payne’s lawyers asked prosecutors for copies of all threat assessments prepared before the April 2014 standoff between Cliven Bundy’s supporters and federal officers attempting to impound the Bundy family cattle for years of failing to pay grazing fees and fines.
Prosecutors handling the Nevada standoff case characterized defendants’ continued push for access to the threat assessments as another in their “long list of frivolous and vexatious pleadings.”
Prosecutors didn’t turn over the multiple threat assessments to Payne and his co-defendants, Nevada cattleman Cliven Bundy and his two sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, until the four were in the midst of trial in mid-November, and a government witness under cross-examination acknowledged familiarity with one of the reports.
The government’s withholding of multiple threat assessments by the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit, the Southern Nevada Counterterrorism Task Force, FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, and Gold Butte Cattle Impound Risk Assessment – which found the Bundys were not likely to use violence – was just one example of the prosecution team’s callous disregard of its constitutional obligations to share with the defense any potentially favorable evidence, according to Payne’s lawyers, assistant federal public defenders Brenda Weksler and Ryan Norwood.
The lead prosecutor in the Nevada standoff case against Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and a fourth alleged ringleader told a jury in his opening statement last month that the case centered on the need to respect the rule of law.
Five weeks later, it was the prosecution team’s abuse of the rule of law that sunk the case, leading to a judge’s declaration Wednesday of a mistrial.
U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro methodically listed the prosecution’s six separate violations of the Brady law, which requires turning over evidence potentially favorable to the defense. The judge further ruled that each violation was willful.
If ever there was a time when federal prosecutors needed to make sure they acted with complete integrity it was in the high-stakes Bundy case, legal observers say. The defendants already held a deep suspicion of the government and had successfully rallied followers to their cause.
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.
Prosecutors shared it last week with defense lawyers for Bundy, his two sons and co-defendant Ryan Payne as they were in the midst of their conspiracy trial, but it’s not part of the public court record.
The memo prompted Cliven Bundy’s lawyer to file a motion early Monday to dismiss the case, already in disarray over concerns raised previously about the government’s failure to promptly share evidence with the defense.
The judge sent the jury home for more than a week as she tries to sort out the claims and prosecutors scramble to save their case.
The memo comes from Larry Wooten, who had been the lead case agent and investigator for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management after the tense confrontation outside the patriarch’s ranch near Bunkerville. Wooten also testified before a federal grand jury that returned indictments against the Bundys. He said he was removed from the investigation last February after he complained to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada.
Last week, Cliven Bundy’s lawyer, Bret Whipple, said his client turned down U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro’s conditions of release because he believed he was innocent and would not accept restrictions on his freedom. He also said Cliven Bundy did not want others jailed in connection with the standoff.
Now that two more of his sons who were charged in the Bunkerville case have been let out of jail, and none of the standoff defendants awaiting trial remains behind bars, Whipple plans to discuss with his client the possibility of being with family for the holidays.
“I’m going to encourage him to allow me to help him,” Whipple said. “But at the end of the day, Cliven is a very principled man, and he follows his own principles, and I respect that.”
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A federal judge offered to release a rancher and states’ rights figure from custody during his trial on charges involving an armed standoff that stopped a government cattle roundup three years ago in Nevada.
But Cliven Bundy refused to leave jail while others are still behind bars awaiting trial in the case.
Bundy, 71, didn’t state his reason in court Wednesday. But his wife, Carol Bundy, noted in a courthouse hallway that two other sons, Mel and David Bundy, are approaching two years in federal detention.
The Bundy trial continues into its next phase in Las Vegas, Nevada. Cliven Bundy, with sons Ryan and Ammon, and their co-defendant Ryan Payne, face felony charges that could result in over 100 years in prison for each.
Directly after opening statements, the prosecution “opened” its case against the Bundy’s and Payne. The prosecution will be in charge of much of the narrative in the next month or two until they “rest” their case. They will be calling the witnesses who are most favorable to the governments theory; usually government employees of the BLM, FBI and other law enforcement agencies. The defendants will be allowed to cross-examine the governments witnesses. The Bundy’s and Payne will have their turn to “open” their case after the government has “rested” theirs.
Complaint Meant to Force AG Sessions To Review and Dismiss Charges
(Washington, D.C., November 10, 2017). Today, Larry Klayman, the founder of both Judicial Watch and now Freedom Watch, announced a lawsuit filed in his private capacity on behalf of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who stood up to government tyranny under the Obama administration. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Case No. 1:17-cv-02429) against Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray in their official capacities, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and the Inspector General (IG) over their failure to conduct an investigation into the bad faith and gross prosecutorial abuse by federal prosecutors and the destruction and hiding of material exculpatory evidence by the DOJ, FBI and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the ongoing criminal prosecution.
The third Bunkerville Standoff Trail in Las Vegas has been delayed for several motions to be resolved before opening arguments.
Thursday saw a pre-trial detention release hearing for the four defendants, Cliven Bundy, his two sons Ryan and Ammon, as well as defendant Ryan Payne.
Bret Whipple, attorney for Cliven Bundy, argued for release of his client citing his age and failing health. The elder Bundy has noticeably weakened since his incarceration nearly two years ago.
Whipple told the court of Bundy’s dental problems, noting that the 71-year-old has had to pull several of his own teeth in his attempts to stop infections. Dental care is minimal in the CCA detention center.
Cliven Bundy, sons Ammon Bundy, and Ryan Bundy, and co-defendant Ryan Payne are accused of conspiring to block federal agents from enforcing court orders when the BLM tried to confiscate Cliven Bundy’s cattle. The cattle were on public land where the ranch had grazing and water rights since the late 1800’s. The government’s actions resulted in the deaths of approximately 100 head of cattle and the destruction of the Bundy’s livestock watering system built throughout the last century.
The four defendants have been incarcerated since January of 2016. They were each charged with 10 felonies. Each man could be sentenced to more than a hundred years in prison for their involvement while resisting the confiscation. The men are brought to court in shackles and each man has had a significant weight loss since their incarceration. All their motions for pretrial releases have been denied.
The government prosecutors in the Bunkerville Standoff Trial in Las Vegas have been recording the privileged phone meetings between the defendants and their attorneys, according to a filing by Ryan Payne.
The motion to dismiss, filed yesterday November 8th, states that the government collected privileged attorney-client phone calls from an incarcerated defendant and then denied possessing such privileged materials.
On September 11, 2017, the government disclosed hundreds of phone calls including calls made from jail by co-defendant Blaine Cooper and the attorney representing him.
LAS VEGAS — A judge declined Thursday to release Nevada cattleman Cliven Bundy days before trial, concerned he still doesn’t recognize federal authority and has a large incentive to flee with at least 80 years in prison hanging over his head if convicted of four of his 16 charges.
U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro also rejected release requests by Ryan Bundy and Ryan Payne and said she would make a decision later on Ammon Bundy.
Bret O. Whipple, the attorney representing the elder Bundy on charges in the 2014 standoff near Bunkerville, urged consideration for the patriarch’s age, his failing health and the reduced weight of evidence against him after unsuccessful conspiracy prosecutions against others in the case.
“He refers to himself as an old cow,” Whipple said, noting that the 71-year-old Bundy arrived in custody with 20 teeth and now has 10 to 15 teeth left because infections are treated by pulling teeth in jail and not with dental care.
“It’s been hard on him and his health has really deteriorated,” Whipple said.
LAS VEGAS — Prosecutors in the Bundy trial must provide information by noon Saturday on all armed federal officers who did surveillance outside the Bundy ranch and any cameras capturing images of the Bundy home between March 1 and April 12, 2014, a judge ordered Wednesday.
The information must be turned over to the defense.
It could help Cliven Bundy, sons Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy and co-defendant Ryan Payne challenge the allegation that they used “deceit and deception” to encourage supporters to come to the ranch by saying the house was surrounded, federal snipers were outside the home and the family felt isolated.
Defense lawyers said they learned for the first time on Tuesday of two federal officers dressed in camouflage and armed with AR-15 rifles posted outside the Bundy residence at night.
That information was contained in a written report that they received from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in preparation for Wednesday’s hearing on disputed discovery evidence.
“Wouldn’t it be important for the defense to know FBI agents are overlooking the Bundy residence with an AR-15?” asked Brenda Weksler, one of Payne’s defense lawyers. “How do we not have this until yesterday?”
Caution: Following the Bunkerville standoff trial proceedings can cause whiplash.
Today the federal judge again delayed the start of the trial for Cliven Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan, and self-styled militia member Ryan Payne. This time for a week. She agreed to hold hearings after Cliven Bundy’s attorney asked the charges be dropped because the prosecution had failed to reveal any recordings or notes taken off live surveillance video of the Bundy ranch during the April 2014 standoff. Ryan Bundy raised the question as to whether there was surveillance video several weeks ago.
“If it has potentially useful information, then the defense is entitled to it,” the judge is quoted by Reuters as saying. “I‘m not convinced that it doesn’t exist.”
The federal agents reportedly shredded documents after the standoff ended.
A federal jury is set to begin hearing opening statements Tuesday in the trial of four defendants in the Bunkerville standoff.
There are six women and six men on the jury and there are four alternates, three men, and a woman.
The judge said the trial is expected to take four months. A number of potential jurors were dismissed because they could not take four months out of their lives to devote to the trial. How many people can or are willing to? Is it a jury of their peers?
On trial is rancher Cliven Bundy, 71, sons Ammon Bundy, 42, and Ryan Bundy, 45, and a self-styled militia member Ryan Payne, 34, who showed up to protest the confiscation of Bundy’s cattle by the BLM. They are charged with conspiracy, extortion and various firearm charges. They have all been jailed for going on two years.