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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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.

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.

Oregon Stand Off Trial Verdicts Are In

The verdicts are in this afternoon for the seven defendants on trial in Portland for their roles in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year.  The verdicts are as follows:

Ammon Bundy, not guilty on all counts

Ryan Bundy, not guilty on conspiracy charge, not guilty on firearms charge, no verdict on theft of property charge.

Jeff Banta, not guilty on all charges

Shawna Cox, not guilty

Ken Medenbach, not guilty on all charges

David Fry, not guilty on all charges

Neil Wampler, not guilty

After Questions of Bias Arise, Juror Dismissed in Oregon Stand Off Trial

Yesterday in the trial of seven defendants accused of conspiring to impede federal employees from doing their jobs after the January 2, 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlfe Refuge, the jury sent questions to the judge.  One of those questions, hand written in all capital letters, was:

“Can a juror, a former employee of the Bureau of Land Management, who opens their remarks in deliberations by stating, ‘I am very biased…’ be considered an impartial judge in this case?”

The defense asked for the juror to be dismissed.  Judge Anna Brown met with the juror and the attorneys and decided she would not immediately dismiss the juror.  She gave the attorneys until 9am today to present case law to support the argument to dismiss the juror.  This is an unusual development, and has resulted in a flurry of discussion and speculation from all sides on how it will effect the trial.

Ammon Bundy’s defense lawyer, Marcus Mumford, filed a motion  to dismiss the juror this morning.  Many reporters in the court room tweeted that Judge Brown stated, “there is not a way forward that is not fraught with risk.”  Judge Brown asked that all parties agree to dismiss the juror on ‘good cause’ and she had a replacement juror chosen from a cup in preparation.  She said if the prosecution did not agree to dismiss the juror, she would hear oral arguments on the motion to dismiss.

Meanwhile, the jury continued to deliberate.  Judge Brown said if they reached a verdict while the court was deciding whether or not to dismiss the juror it would be yet another problem.

Finally, the prosecution agreed to dismiss the juror. The judge informed the jury that she had determined that juror 11 needs to be excused in the interest of justice, and that everyone would be back in court tomorrow morning for another round of jury instructions.  She told the jury they will have to set aside the conclusions they had already come to and start over.

 

FBI Agent Testifies of Advance Warning of Malheur Wildlife Refuge Takeover Plan

According to testimony given by FBI Agent Chadd Lapp in the ongoing trial of seven defendants charged with conspiring to impede federal officers from fulfilling their duties as a result of their occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that began January 2, 2016, the FBI received advanced warning of the plan on January 1, 2016.  It has been acknowledged during the trial that there were informants at the refuge during the occupation.

On Wednesday, September 28, 2016, Agent Lapp testified that on January 1, one day before the planned rally supporting the Hammonds, FBI agents learned there was a plan to take over the refuge.   Maxine Bernstein wrote in the Oregonian on September 29, 2016:

“Lapp said he heard the information from another agent. Ammon Bundy’s lawyer Marcus Mumford referred to an email sent to the chief regional refuge law enforcement office that he said made mention of ‘intelligence from four people within the militia about a plan to take the refuge.’

‘I remember telling him there was intelligence. It was a potential target,’ Lapp said. ‘It was really basic words…Malheur…wildlife refuge, and there may be a plan to take it.’

Under questioning from Mumford, Lapp said he conveyed the intelligence to several people in his office, but didn’t do anything further with the information.”

That nothing was done to prevent this plan, even with the short notice, is surprising given the testimonies made previously by Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward and Chad Karges, the manager of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, who both spoke of taking preventative measures prior to the January 2 rally.

Sheriff Ward testified earlier in the trial that after several meetings with Ammon Bundy prior to the January 2 rally and numerous emails, warnings, and his own research into what had happened at Bunkerville, Nevada in 2014, he prepared by moving the inmates from his jail in Burns, Oregon to the next county.  He added that he moved all of the weapons and ammunition to the jail, which could serve as a fortified bunker should something happen during the January 2 rally.

Chad Karges testified that “he made the decision to keep employees away after New Year’s Day because of the ‘continued intimidation and threats towards federal employees,’ ‘type of arms that they had,’ and the ‘type of stand they were taking.'”  Defense Attorney Lisa Maxfield asked Karges why no security was placed at the refuge before the rally, Karges answered, “at that time, federal agencies were being told the threat was towards the BLM, and the refuge hadn’t entered into the conversation.”

If the FBI had received information a day in advance of the takeover of the refuge, as Agent Lapp testified yesterday, why indeed weren’t steps taken to increase security at the refuge?  Clearly law enforcement and federal employees were concerned in the months leading up to the Hammonds returning to prison and the January 2 support rally.  Considering that, and the stand off that had occurred in Nevada nearly two years before, why would such a warning not be taken seriously?

With the well-known presence of the Bundys and the others who joined them in taking the refuge, as well as that of the Pacific Patriots Network and other “militia” groups in Burns, Oregon, for the support rally for the Hammonds, I find it difficult to believe there was a shortage of law enforcement in Harney County on January 1, 2016.  Why then was there no law enforcement presence placed at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on January 2, 2016 after the FBI received warning of the planned occupation?