It began four years ago, when Cliven Bundy and his children refused to pay federal grazing fees and looked at government agents in an armed confrontation outside their Nevada ranch.
The Bundys challenged the federal government to arrest them. The government did it, accusing them of a series of crimes.
On Monday, a federal judge in Las Vegas released them.
The decision left federal prosecutors swallowing another defeat at the hands of a family whose challenge has become a battle cry for Westerners who believe the federal government has no business to manage public lands. Four times, in high-profile cases in Nevada and Oregon, the Bundy family and its allies have defeated the federal government in court.
For the last showdown, supporters placed banners and signs on Las Vegas Boulevard. One drove from Montana to provide Facebook updates for devotees of the cause.
At least 100 Bundy sponsors filled the court Monday. Some wore shirts with American flag motifs. Others carried pocket Constitutions with their shirts buttoned. More than a few wore cowboy boots.
Her heroes sat looking at US District Judge Gloria Navarro. Cliven Bundy, 71, was wearing a prison jumpsuit. His son Ryan, 44, who led a large group of prayerful followers before entering the court, took off his cowboy hat. Another son, Ammon, 42, and a member of the militia, Ryan Payne, barely moved.
It was his moment.
Navarro reprimanded federal prosecutors, using the words "flagrant" and "reckless" to describe how they hid evidence from the defense, before saying "that the universal sense of justice has been violated" and dismissing the charges.
Supporters wiped their eyes with paper handkerchiefs. Outside in the hall, there were cheers.
The four defendants were accused of threatening a federal officer, carrying and using a firearm, and participating in a conspiracy. On occasion, the case had seemed a reverence to some.
The images that had turned Bundys' heroes into armed supporters confronting federal agents as contractors of the US Bureau of Land Administration. UU They tried to seize the cattle, they seemed to be convincing evidence.
Monday's dismissal was hinted last month when Navarro ordered the nullity annulled. But she offered prosecutors the opportunity to present their arguments about why they should grant another trial.
Assistant United States Attorney. Steven Myhre wrote in his letter that the government had shared 1.5 terabytes of information with the accused and pointed out that it was "by far the largest revision and disclosure operation in this [U.S. attorney’s office] history."
Myrhe also argued that the government needed to protect some witnesses from leaks that could lead to threats, so "it eliminated the database with witness protection in mind".
"Unprecedented database volume and witness concerns aside, the government never let these obstacles hinder diligent work to fulfill its discovery obligations," he wrote.
Navarro did not buy it and destroyed the government because of "irresponsible disregard for constitutional obligations." She said she was concerned about the prosecutor's delay in providing information about the placement of surveillance cameras by the government. and snipers outside the ranch.
After the decision, Cliven Bundy stepped out of an elevator in the courthouse dressed in jeans, button-do A T-shirt and a gray jacket.
"I'm not used to being free, put it that way," he said. "I have been a political prisoner by right in 700 days today, I come to this court as an innocent man and I am going to leave as an innocent man."
He also seemed ready to resume his role as a leader in the issue of local control of federal lands. It's a decades-long struggle for Bundy, who first fought with the Bureau of Land Management in the 1990s by refusing to pay grazing fees for his cattle using federal lands.
When he and his wife, Carol, went out to spit rain, hundreds of fans applauded. A "Not Guilty" sticker had been attached to his lapel. The rancher took off his hat and greeted the crowd before posing for photographs.
He criticized the Clark County commissioners, the Clark County sheriff and the Nevada governor for not coming to his defense.
"My defense is a 15- second defense: I pay my cattle only in Clark County, Nev., Land and I have no contract with the federal government," he said. "This court has no jurisdiction or authority over this matter, and I have held this court in the United States as a political prisoner for two years."
His attorney, Bret Whipple, said there would be a press conference Tuesday in front of the Las Vegas police headquarters to talk about public control. Earth.
EE. UU Atty. Dayle Elieson of Nevada, who was appointed by Atty. General Jeff Sessions last week, released a brief statement after the decision. "We respect the court's ruling and will make a determination about the appropriate next steps."
Ian Bartrum, a law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said that although the court's decision was a defeat for the Justice Department, it could be seen as a victory for the Trump administration's policy to reduce the monuments and press for local control of federal lands.
"The majority of the Trump base are supporters of Bundy," Bartrum said in an email. "This plays directly with Trump's greatest narrative about the Swamp against the People, I think he could be right in saying that they are not so unhappy … and they will probably take political advantage of it."
Defenders of the federal application of land regulations quickly criticized the handling of the case by the government.  "The federal prosecutors clearly made a mistake in this case and allowed the Bundys to get away with breaking the law," Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "The Bundys assembled a militia to mount an armed insurrection against the government, the failure of this case will only encourage this violent and racist anti-government movement that wants to seize our public lands."
Twice last year, Las Vegas juries acquitted or blocked felony charges against Bundy supporters. Then, Ammon and Ryan Bundy each defeated charges for federal crimes in a case stemming from a 41-day standoff in 2016 at a Oregon nature reserve.
8:15 pm: The story it was updated with details of the judicial procedures and background of the case.
The story was originally published at 10:20 a.m.