BLM ordered to deliver a report on the dismissal of the Bundy case

Congressional hearings may follow

Katie Aguilera

Utah Representative Rob Bishop (R) has ordered Brian Steed, the acting chairman of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to deliver a report on the handling of the Bundy case.  Judge Gloria Navarro declared a mistrial in the federal case against Cliven, Ryan, and Ammon Bundy, and Ryan Payne, on December 21, 2017.  She ruled it a mistrial with prejudice January 8, 2018, dropping the charges against the men.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that a congressional hearing is expected to follow the BLM’s report, which Bishop ordered to be delivered by January 24.

“The failures in the Bundy case and previous cases display serious misconduct by the BLM law enforcement officials, and strongly suggest that there are systemic issues within BLM’s law enforcement operations,” Bishop said.

Concerns have also grown that the mistrial will embolden people to act violently against federal authorities in future disputes.  Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva (D) has ordered a Government Accountability Office study, which is currently ongoing, “on the scale of recent threats and attacks against BLM officials and property,” according to the Las Vegas review article.  “’You’ve emboldened people like Bundy and the way they think—that it’s OK to threaten federal marshals with weapons, to occupy an area, armed, and talk about violence and foment that,’ Grijalva said.”

The Bundys argued that the April 12, 2014 armed standoff between the family and their supporters, and the BLM law enforcement, was the result of the aggressive posture taken by the BLM during the operation to round up Cliven Bundy’s trespassing cattle.  The information the prosecution was accused of withholding from the defense in the case confirmed some of the Bundys’ claims regarding the BLM’s actions.

Currently, a bill has been introduced to the House committee on natural resources that would require the Department of the Interior to “terminate the Bureau of Land Management Office [and U.S. Forest Service] of Law Enforcement and cease using Interior employees to perform law enforcement functions on federal lands.” The bill still awaits action by the committee.


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Indictment unsealed in bribery case involving Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation

Katie Aguilera

On Friday, January 12, 2018, the Department of Justice unsealed an 11-count indictment against Mark Lambert, a former co-president of a trucking company that provides transportation for nuclear materials to customers in the United States and abroad.  Lambert is alleged to have been involved in a bribery scheme with an official from a subsidiary of Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation.

According to the Department of Justice announcement:  “Mark Lambert, 54, of Mount Airy, Maryland, was charged in an 11-count indictment with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and to commit wire fraud, seven counts of violating the FCPA, two counts of wire fraud and one count of international promotion money laundering.  The charges stem from an alleged scheme to bribe Vadim Mikerin, a Russian official at JSC Techsnabexport (TENEX), a subsidiary of Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation and the sole supplier and exporter of Russian Federation uranium and uranium enrichment services to nuclear power companies worldwide, in order to secure contracts with TENEX.”

Lambert’s former co-president, Darin Condrey, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA and commit wire fraud in June of 2015.  Vadim Mikerin also pleaded guilty, to conspiracy to commit money laundering involving violations of the FCPA.

These charges come after an FBI investigation that began at least as early as 2009 looking into various violations of the FCPA by people involved in two large deals approved by the Obama administration in 2010 and 2011.

The first deal, in 2010, was the Uranium One deal, which sold part of the Canadian company Uranium One to Russian owned Rosatom.  This made Rosatom one of the biggest uranium producers in the world, and at the time of the sale, gave them control of around 20% of the U.S. uranium supply.  (This does not mean that Russia can export uranium from the U.S.)

The second deal was in 2011.  It gave Rosatom’s subsidiary, Tenex, the right to sell commercial uranium to U.S. nuclear power plants rather than uranium recovered from old Soviet nuclear weapons.

Both deals appear to be surrounded with allegations of kickbacks, money laundering, and extortion.  It is certainly possible that Lambert, Condrey, and Mikerin will not be the only ones facing charges in relation to these deals.

The Hill reported on October 17, 2017 that the FBI had “gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.”  None of this was publicly revealed before the Obama administration approved either deal.

Also from the Hill:

“’The Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats, all of which raised legitimate national security concerns. And none of that evidence got aired before the Obama administration made those decisions,’ a person who worked on the case told The Hill, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by U.S. or Russian officials.”

The Hill goes on to discuss the large sums of money the Clinton Foundation received from parties with an interest in the Uranium deals.  The New York Times reported on this in April 2015, writing “Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million.  Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors.”

There were other donations as well, and Mr. Clinton received a payment of $500,000 for a speech in Moscow, paid for by a “Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock,” according to the April 2015 New York Times article.

The Clintons have denied that these payments had any affect on the approval of the two deals.  According to the October 2017 article from the Hill, “the Obama administration and the Clintons defended their actions at the time, insisting there was no evidence that any Russians or donors engaged in wrongdoing and there was no national security reason for any member of the committee to oppose the Uranium One deal.”  Both deals were approved by multiple U.S. agencies, and the Canadian government in the Uranium One sale, not by Hillary Clinton or the State Department alone.

The FBI’s investigation continued for at least four years, and it is unclear if any of the officials tasked with approving these deals were made aware of it, or of the financial crimes under investigation, when they made their decisions.


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Judge dismisses case with prejudice in Las Vegas

Judge Gloria Navarro dismissed the case against Cliven, Ryan, and Ammon Bundy and Ryan Payne with prejudice this morning.  The judge cited the Brady violations by the prosecution that led to the trial ending in a mistrial in December as one reason for the dismissal.  This means the defendants cannot be retried for the charges they were indicted for.

Bundy trial in Nevada ends in mistrial

Judge Gloria Navarro declared a mistrial Wednesday morning in the Bundy trial in Las Vegas, Nevada, as a result of her concerns about Brady violations by the prosecution.  Judge Navarro described the violations as “willful” failure to turn six key pieces of evidence over to the defense that would be helpful to their case.

The withheld evidence includes verification of several things the defense has argued contributed to the actions of the defendants during the 2014 armed standoff between the Bundys, their supporters, and Bureau of Land Management and law enforcement officers.  The prosecution has repeatedly denied these things occurred.

One example was documentation of the presence of snipers near the Bundy ranch in the days leading up to the standoff.  The Bundys repeatedly claimed that snipers were there, and this was one reason people, including militia members, came to Bunkerville to support them.  Many claim that when they heard about the snipers, they feared violent action against the Bundys by law enforcement, and came to protect them.

The Bundys themselves have argued that they felt threatened because of the snipers and the aggressive posture of the authorities.  They have said the Bureau of Land Management provoked them and their supporters into the armed standoff that occurred April 12, 2014 in Nevada.  However, according to the judge, the prosecution has insisted there were no snipers present in previous trials.

Judge Navarro cited an “FBI log with entries that said ‘snipers were inserted’ and on standby outside the Bundy home. Three entries in the log mentioned snipers present, Navarro noted. Prosecutors claimed they were unaware of the log at first because it was kept on a thumb drive in a tactical vehicle.”

“The government is still responsible for information from the investigating agency. The FBI chose not to disclose it,” Navarro said.

Another example, an FBI report about a security camera, trained on the Bundy family home in Bunkerville, that was put up and monitored by the FBI.  “The government falsely represented the camera that was on the Bundy house was incidental, not purposeful,” the judge said.

Also included were threat assessments of the Bundys that stated they weren’t considered violent, and documents from the Bureau of Land Management that show the Bundy’s trespassing cattle had caused no harm to the endangered desert tortoises.

As a result of these developments, “a mistrial in this case is the most suitable and only remedy available,” Judge Navarro said.  A new trial may be held in February, but in the meantime, Judge Navarro will decide if it is a mistrial with or without prejudice.  If she rules it is with prejudice, there won’t be another trial for the current charges against Cliven, Ryan, and Ammon Bundy and Ryan Payne.

Protest On Trial: Six defendants arrested during Disrupt J20 protests on Inauguration Day fighting felony charges in court


Katie Aguilera

On November 20, 2017, trial began in Washington DC superior court for six defendants arrested during the protests that took place on Inauguration Day.  More than 200 people were arrested that day after a small number of protesters clashed with police, smashed windows, and committed other acts of property destruction.  Six police were injured, and an estimated $100,000.00 in damage resulted from the violence.

The six now on trial are the first of over 200 arrested on Inauguration day who have all been charged with felonies.  Those charges include conspiracy to riot, engaging in a riot, inciting a riot, and multiple property damage charges, and come with a maximum ten-year prison sentence for each count.  Some have already pleaded guilty to lesser charges and some have had the charges dropped.  But nearly 200 people still face felony convictions, and possible 60-year sentences, if found guilty.

The prosecution in this first trial has made it clear they don’t intend to prove that any of the six defendants personally caused any property damage or injury, but rather that all who face charges are guilty because they are all collectively responsible for the actions of a few.  US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff said in her opening statement, “though there is no evidence the defendants caused any of the damage directly, the government considers the entire group of protesters to be responsible.”

 “The prosecution is pursuing a somewhat unusual strategy: Rather than trying to prove that any of individual defendant was personally guilty of destruction, prosecutors are arguing that all demonstrators present that day were aware and supportive of the violent intentions of the others.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff, in her comments, has repeatedly referred to the ‘black bloc tactics’ of the protesters as part of a message that everyone participating in the protest came with either the intention to commit violence or the knowledge that violence was part of the plan.”

Ashraf Khalil, Associated Press November 21, 2017

The government is arguing that all of the defendants conspired to cause the violence and rioting, regardless of whether they participated in any advance planning.  They argue that the defendants intended for the property destruction and violence to occur even if they didn’t cause damage themselves.  They argue that by continuing to move together down the street as some in their midst engaged in criminal behavior, everyone arrested became responsible for the resulting damage.

This idea of collective liability is what makes this trial so important, and all Americans should be paying attention.  The mere act of charging so many, with the possibility of such severe punishment, threatens to stifle legitimate protest and first amendment activity.  If exercising one’s right to peacefully protest comes with the risk of felony charges for the criminal behavior of others, many will opt to stay home.  If these six are convicted, it sets a very dangerous precedent.

Kris Hermes, an organizer of a support group for the defendants called Defend J20, is quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “what the government is saying to us is, dissent is not an acceptable form of expression in this country, and if you choose to go out on the street and express yourself, then you risk being arrested and seriously prosecuted.”

Eoin Higgins wrote in an October 25, 2017 article for the Intercept, “by charging everyone together with conspiracy counts, the government seems intent on making an example of the J20 protesters.”  He also writes, “that the government’s case does not differentiate between actors and bystanders could be an indication of future clampdowns on protest.”

There are other very important aspects of this case, such as the tactics used during the arrests, the arrests of journalists covering the protests, the methods of evidence gathering employed in the months after the arrests, etc.  But the very fact that these defendants face these charges when there is no evidence they personally caused any damage should have us all very concerned.  Any threat to an individual’s first amendment right is a threat to all of our first amendment rights.

Image courtesy of

Ammon Bundy released from prison, Cliven Bundy refuses release, and Ryan Payne granted release pending approval from Oregon judge

In what seems a sudden and surprising reversal of her prior denial of release for the Bundys and Ryan Payne as their trial proceeds in Nevada, Judge Gloria Navarro has granted release from prison for Cliven and Ammon Bundy, and Ryan Payne.  She had previously reversed her decision to deny Ryan Bundy release, allowing him to move to a halfway house on November 13, 2017.

This decision to release the defendants came after a sealed hearing, details of which are still not publicly available.

Ammon Bundy walked out of the courthouse early Thursday with his family to be greeted by a crowd of supporters and the press.

Cliven Bundy has refused the conditions of release, opting to remain in prison.  His attorney, Brett Whipple, stated, “to be released, he would have to agree to conditions.  In his opinion, he’s not willing to take a deal with the government when he hasn’t done anything wrong to begin with…. He’s very principled and he doesn’t want to violate those principals and I respect that.”

Ryan Payne was also granted release, pending approval from Judge Anna Brown in Oregon federal court.  Payne still faces sentencing in Oregon for his role in the 2016 Malheur Wildlife refuge occupation.  A hearing is scheduled for 3:00pm today (Friday) in the Portland federal courthouse.

The trial in Nevada is expected to resume December 11, 2017.

Update, 12/2/2017:  Ryan Payne was released Friday, 12/1/2017.  It looks as though there will be a release hearing for Dave and Mel Bundy, Joseph O’Shaughnessy, and Jason Woods on Monday.  Here are the conditions for release.


Rumors of release from custody for Bundys in Las Vegas

Rumors are flying today that Cliven, Ammon, Mel, and Dave Bundy, and Ryan Payne, will be released from custody today as their trial continues in Las Vegas.  Supporters of the Bundys have made Facebook posts such as this one and this one that appear to confirm the rumors.  This information comes after the court room spent the morning in a sealed hearing.

Fox 5 Las Vegas confirmed that Judge Navarro would release the defendants in a tweet this afternoon.

Update 1:36pm: this [that article appears to have been removed] article from Las Vegas Now confirms the Bundys are to be released for the duration of the trial.  It does not mention Ryan Payne.

12/1/2017: The above Las Vegas Now article appears to have been removed and that link no longer works.  Here is an Oregon Live article from 11/29/2017 with more details.