Cliven Bundy leaves the federal court with his wife, Carol, on Monday. (KM Cannon / Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)
A federal judge dismissed Monday the accusations against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who rose to national fame during his armed confrontation with government authorities in 2014 when he challenged his authority over federal lands.
The dismissal was the latest defeat of government officials who prosecuted Bundy and his relatives in connection with a pair of clashes with federal authorities, first in the territory of Bundy and then, two years later, when their children took of armed control of a wildlife refuge in Oregon.
District Court Judge Gloria Navarro dismissed the case against the rancher, two of her children and a Montana militiaman, only three weeks after she declared the judgment null in the case against Bundy. Navarro had ruled that government lawyers suppressed key evidence that would have been favorable to the defendants' case, including the suppression of evidence from FBI surveillance cameras that searched the Bundy family home and the presence of federal snipers near the property. , among other omissions.
His decision on Monday freed Bundy and marked a significant victory for the rancher and his supporters. As part of the dispute over the federal government's land-use policies in the West, the Bundys have argued that the government has been unfairly trampling on their rights, although the null judgment and the dismissal in Bundy's case focused on how prosecutors they handled the evidence.
Prosecutors argued in a court document that they did not maliciously retain material, but were provoked by "threats to witnesses and the speed with which personal information It can spread on social networks. " media. "But an attorney for Ammon Bundy, one of the rancher's sons, denounced the government for not delivering" a charge of exculpatory information. "
" This was Judge Navarro's way of ensuring that this does not happen in his district once again, "said Dan Hill, the lawyer, in an interview on Monday.
Hill said that this dismissal seemed to mark the end of federal cases against Bundy and two of his children, although the government could appeal. Two of Bundy's other children continue to be tried for the 2014 clash in rural Bunkerville, Nevada
"We respect the court's decision and will make a determination on appropriate next steps," Dayle Elieson, US District attorney of Nevada, said in a statement.
After the armed confrontation in 2014, during which government officials moved away from a confrontation over their attempts to stop grazing on lands of pro Federal piety without a permit, Bundy remained free and defiant for two years.
Bundy has maintained that the federal government illegitimately owns land belonging to states and private citizens, and speaking on Monday after leaving the court, said that "this court has no jurisdiction." . . about this issue. "
" I have been a political prisoner for 700 days, "Bundy told reporters after the charges were dismissed." I'm still a little angry. "
Bret Whipple, a lawyer for Bundy, called the judge's decision "an absolute victory" and said Bundy: who refused a conditional release last month under any conditions that suggested he was guilty He finally went home.
"His wife has not seen him in two years," Whipple said. "I know she keeps him very close to her."
Defenders of conservation and the environment criticized quickly The judge's decision, which they said could encourage others to participate in clashes with federal authorities trying to protect public lands Michael Blumm, professor at the Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland and an expert in environmental and land laws He said he feared that the acquittals of people involved in the clashes in Oregon and Nevada could lead to similar clashes elsewhere.
"That would be really unfortunate because it deals with criminal occupations and, if it is repeated elsewhere, it will probably generate prison time for the vigilantes,"
Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said that Prosecutors "clearly failed this case and let [Bundy family] get away with violating the law." The Center for Western Priorities, a defense and defense group, said the result "should send chills to anyone who values our parks." , wildlife refuges and all public lands. "
"At the end of the day, the case was dismissed because of a technicality," Aaron Weiss, media director at the Center for Western Priorities, said Monday. "Cliven Bundy did not win on merit, he was not acquitted by a jury"
J.J. MacNab, an author and investigator who specializes in extremism, also said that it was likely that the judge's dismissal could lead others to face their own confrontations.
"Cliven Bundy became a front man for the movement after the government backed down in April 2014," MacNab said. "Now, he's a popular hero in his own right, he fought the law and won."
Bundy was arrested in 2016 in the final days of another armed confrontation involving family members and government officials, hundreds of miles north of his Nevada ranch.
Ammon Bundy and his brother, Ryan, led a group that occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon for several weeks in early 2016. That occupation eventually dwindled and, in February 2016, the final occupants they surrendered to FBI agents after online negotiations were dramatically transmitted.
That same year, Ammon and Ryan Bundy were among those acquitted by the refugee showdown, although they still faced charges in Nevada that were dismissed on Monday. Dan Hill, attorney for Ammon Bundy, said his client will continue to focus on the discussion of the land in the future.
"Certainly, he wants the issue of who should control federal lands within state borders continue to be discussed, and I think he will continue to give talks and seminars on that as he always has," Hill said. "That's a close and dear topic for him."
The 2014 showdown drew intense national attention, as well as support or sympathy from Republican politicians. President Trump, at that time the host of the NBC series "The Apprentice," appeared on Fox News and praised Bundy's "spirit, his sperm". But Trump noted that there were laws and tariffs that governed the country and suggested that Bundy should "The prominent Republican leaders quickly moved away from Bundy at the time after the rancher publicly wondered whether blacks were" better as slaves ".
] During the years that followed, there was no attempt to arrest him or collect unpaid herding fees, and Bundy did not repent.
"They have no jurisdiction or authority, and they do not have police power," Bundy told the Washington Post in an interview at that time. "They have nothing to do here."
Not long after the interview, Bundy traveled to Oregon when the confrontation of the wild life organized by his children was coming to an end. to Portland.
In addition to Bundy's arrest and charges against his children and others involved in the Oregon confrontation, that saga also produced another legal case.
At the height of the Oregon occupation, authorities detained some of the group's leaders while traveling outside the shelter. Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, a 54-year-old rancher who acted as spokesman for the group, was shot dead during the January 2016 meeting. Authorities said the shooting was justified, but last year a special agent with an elite team The FBI was charged and accused of shooting during that episode and then trying to cover it up.
Sottile reported from Portland, Oregon.
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