Mistrial in Bundy standoff case

Some Bundy supporters see the jury deadlock as a sliver of hope.

 

Bundy family supporters fly the American flag as cattle are released by the Bureau of Land Management after the standoff in 2014.
Jason Bean/Las Vegas Review-Journal, via AP

In a stunning twist, the first of three federal trials involving the 2014 armed standoff between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and federal land managers ended in a mistrial. Todd Engel of Idaho and Gregory Burleson of Arizona were convicted of some charges, but the Las Vegas jury was hung on all other counts for them and fellow defendants Eric Parker, Steven Stewart, Scott Drexler and Ricky Lovelien.

On April 24, on the sixth day of deliberation, the jury told District Court Judge Gloria Navarro that they were “hopelessly deadlocked” on the remaining counts (10 for each defendant). Navarro declared a mistrial, with new proceedings scheduled to begin on June 26.

The second of the three trials will involve the standoff’s accused organizers: Cliven Bundy and his sons Ammon and Ryan, conservative blogger Pete Santilli and Army veteran Ryan Payne, also a key player in the 2016 occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. That trial has now been postponed, with no dates set for it or the third trial, involving the Nevada standoff’s “mid-tier” participants.

The April 2014 events at Bundy Ranch, 75 miles northeast of Las Vegas, drew hundreds of anti-federal protesters furious over the government’s impoundment of Cliven Bundy’s cattle, which had been grazing illegally on public land for years. (According to the Bureau of Land Management, Bundy owes at least $1 million in grazing fees.) BLM and National Park Service employees halted the operation to avoid a violent confrontation with armed protesters.

The standoff was just one skirmish in the longstanding war over control of the West’s public lands. Yet public-land management was not directly addressed in the trial, nor were the Bundys’ anti-government views, including a fringe interpretation of the U.S. Constitution that claims the federal government is not allowed to own land. “I wanted nothing to do with the Bundys and their fight with the federal government,” defense attorney Todd Leventhal told NewTowncarShare News.

The lack of convictions after two months of proceedings is a blow to the prosecution, since the government usually wins federal cases. Some Bundyites, who view the trial as a referendum on federal land management, see the mistrial as a sliver of hope. “This is a total answer to (our) prayers,” said John Lamb of Bozeman, Montana, after hearing that Engel and Burleson were not convicted on all charges. Federal prosecutors now have two more months to hone their arguments for putting all 17 defendants behind bars.

Tay Wiles is an associate editor for NewTowncarShare News. She can be reached at [email protected]

A version of this story was originally published online on April 24, 2017.

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • Manage, develop and implement all stewardship and land management plans and activities on both private and public lands. Guide and direct comprehensive planning efforts, provide...
  • Based in the state capitol, Boise State Public Radio is the premier NPR affiliate in Idaho. With 18 transmitters and translators, it reaches 2/3rds of...
  • Dream of owning your own business, being your own boss, working from home ... this is the one.
  • Organization Background: The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a non-profit 501(3)(c) organization, founded in 2006. Our mission is to protect the ecosystems of the...
  • If you are deeply committed to public service and would like to become part of our high performing, passionate and diverse team, NCAT is looking...
  • Create a base in the center of Southern Utah's Grand Circle of National Parks. Multiple residential property with three established rental units and zoning latitude...
  • with home on one beautiful acre in Pocatello, ID. Blackrock Forge - retiring after 43 years! Fully equipped 5,500 sf shop including office, gallery and...
  • Certified organic fruit/berry/veggie/flower farm. Home, barns, garage, separate apt, more. Just under 2 ac, edge of town. Famously pure air and water. Skiing, mountaineering, bike,...
  • Become a force for nature and a healthy planet by joining the Arizona Chapter as Forest Stewardship Project Director. You will play a key role...
  • Ranchers Stewardship Alliance is accepting applications for an Executive Director. This position will provide leadership to RSA, develop a fund raising plan, and effectively communicate...
  • The Equity in the Outdoors Coordinator will lead community engagement, program implementation and development, and data collection for the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement (EVOM). EVOM...
  • The Idaho Conservation League is seeking a personable individual who is passionate about conservation to join our Sandpoint Field Office. The Community Engagement Assistant will...
  • 4 standard or custom lengths. Rugged protection for backpacking. Affordable pricing.
  • Actively introduce students to Experiential Education, Outdoor Recreation, and Sustainability while engaging and challenging them to learn and participate in these diverse opportunities. Room, board,...
  • In-depth investigations of polluters, lobbyists, regulators, elected officials and others focused on environmentally damaging projects in the U.S. and internationally. We specialize in mining projects,...
  • in beautiful Montezuma County.
  • Class A & B drivers, pass all DOT requirements and clean driving record
  • - Thriving Indie bookstore in the heart of Durango, Colorado. General bookstore with 34-year history as a community hub for Southwest region of CO. 1800...
  • will develop and execute Wild Utah Projects fundraising plan. Call, email or check full description of job online for more details:
  • on ten acres. Full view of the Grand Teton. 35 miles to Yellowstone and 20 minutes to Grand Targhee Ski Area.