quote:A federal judge dismissed all charges against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, his two sons and another man on Monday after accusing prosecutors of willfully withholding evidence from Bundy’s lawyers.
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro cited "flagrant prosecutorial misconduct" in her decision to dismiss all charges against the Nevada rancher and three others.
"The court finds that the universal sense of justice has been violated," Navarro said.
quote: “Either the government lied or [it’s actions were] so grossly negligent as to be tantamount to lying." - Judge Andrew Napolitano
Bundy's supporters cheered as he walked out of court a free man, hugging his wife. He said he'd been jailed for 700 days as a "political prisoner" for refusing to acknowledge federal authority over the land around his cattle ranch.
On Dec. 20, Navarro declared a mistrial in the high-profile Bundy case. It was only the latest, stunning development in the saga of the Nevada rancher, who led a tense, armed standoff with federal officials trying to take over his land. The clash served as a public repudiation of the federal government.
The Brady rule, named after the landmark 1963 Supreme Court case known as Brady vs. Maryland, holds that failure to disclose such evidence violates a defendant’s right to due process.
“In this case the failures to comply with Brady were exquisite, extraordinary,” said Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano. “The judge exercised tremendous patience.”
The 71-year-old Bundy’s battle with the federal government eventually led to what became known as the Bundy standoff of 2014. But it began long before that.
In the early 1990s, the U.S. government limited grazing rights on federal lands in order to protect the desert tortoise habitat. In 1993, Bundy, in protest, refused to renew his permit for cattle grazing, and continued grazing his livestock on these public lands. He didn’t recognize the authority of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over the sovereign state of Nevada.
The federal courts sided with the BLM, and Bundy didn’t seem to have a legal leg to stand on. Nevertheless, the rancher and the government continued this dispute for 20 years, and Bundy ended up owing over $1 million in fees and fines.
Things came to a head in 2014, when officials planned to capture and impound cattle trespassing on government land. Protesters, many armed, tried to block the authorities, which led to a standoff. For a time, they even shut down a portion of I-15, the main interstate highway running through Southern Nevada.
Tensions escalated until officials, fearing for the general safety, announced they would return Bundy’s cattle and suspend the roundup.
Afterward, Bundy continued to graze his cattle and not pay fees. He and his fellow protesters were heroes to some, but criminals to the federal government. Bundy, along with others seen as leaders of the standoff, including sons Ammon and Ryan and militia member Ryan Payne, were charged with numerous felonies, including conspiracy, assault on a federal officer and using a firearm in a violent crime. They faced many years in prison.
The Bundy case finally went to trial last October. But just two months later, it ended with Navarro angry, the feds humiliated and Bundy – at least to his supporters – vindicated.
Navarro had suspended the trial earlier and warned of a mistrial when prosecutors released information after a discovery deadline. Overall, the government was late in handing over more than 3,300 pages of documents. Further, some defense requests for information that ultimately came to light had been ridiculed by prosecutors as “fantastical” and a “fishing expedition.”
“Either the government lied or [its actions were] so grossly negligent as to be tantamount to lying,” Napolitano said. “This happened over and over again.”
Navarro said Monday it was clear the FBI was involved in the prosecution and it was not a coincidence that most of the evidence that was held back – which would have worked in Bundy’s favor – came from the FBI, AZCentral reported.
The newspaper said after the courtroom doors opened following Navarro’s ruling, a huge cheer went up from a crowd of spectators that had gathered outside.
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Posts: 17365 | From: Tulsa | Registered: Jan 2002
quote:A federal judge Monday threw out criminal charges against Nevada cattleman Cliven Bundy, his two sons and a co-defendant in the 2014 Bunkerville standoff, citing "flagrant misconduct" by prosecutors and the FBI in not disclosing evidence to the defense before and during trial.
"The government's conduct in this case was indeed outrageous," U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro ruled. "There has been flagrant misconduct, substantial prejudice and no lesser remedy is sufficient."
The judge issued her ruling before a packed courtroom with nearly 100 spectators, as more than a dozen other spectators had to wait outside the courtroom doors. As Navarro dismissed the case, Cliven Bundy's lawyer put his arm around his client. Supporters in the public gallery held hands, wiped tears from their eyes and hugged. One looked up and whispered, "Thank you Lord.''
The dismissal with prejudice, meaning a new trial can't be pursued, marked an embarrassing nadir for the federal government, which now has failed to convict the Bundys in two major federal cases stemming from separate armed standoffs.
The second stunning victory for the Bundys and their followers may serve to bolster their fight against federal control of public land, but it's not clear how their movement has fared. The three have spent most of the last two years in jail. Ammon Bundy owes at least $180,000 in legal fees in the Oregon case, and he said most of his national clients in his vehicle fleet service business left out of fear.
After the judge's ruling, the senior Bundy attempted to walk out of the courtroom in his blue jail garb and ankle shackles but was blocked by deputy U.S. marshals. He was released soon afterwards, wearing a cowboy hat, blazer and cowboy boots. He took hugs and handshakes from supporters. His sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, have been out of custody since November, when they were allowed to leave jail to stay in private homes under GPS monitoring.
"I've been a political prisoner for right at 700 days today," Cliven Bundy said, his arm around his wife, Carol Bundy. "I come in this courtroom an innocent man and I'm going to leave as an innocent man. My defense is a 15-second defense. I raised my cattle only on Clark County, Nevada, land and I have no contract with the federal government. This court has no jurisdiction and authority over this matter. And I have put up with the court in America as a political prisoner for two years."
Cliven Bundy turned his attention to state and local authorities, saying the state and Clark County sheriff were "aiders and abettors'' and "terrorists'' for failing to protect his family's rights and liberties. He said he plans to go home and have a "good steak,'' continue to graze his cattle and scheduled a news conference Tuesday outside the Clark County sheriff's office.
The judge found prosecutors engaged in a "deliberate attempt to mislead" and made several misrepresentations to both the defense and the court about evidence relating to a surveillance camera and snipers outside the Bundy ranch in early April 2014, as well as threat assessments made in the case.
"The court is troubled by the prosecution's failure to look beyond the FBI file," Navarro said.
She said she "seriously questions" that the FBI "inexplicably placed'' but "perhaps hid" a tactical operations log that referred to the presence of snipers outside the Bundy residence on a "thumb drive inside a vehicle for three years,'' when the government has had four years to prepare the case.
The judge found it especially egregious that the prosecutors chose not to share documents that the defendants specially asked for in pretrial motions, and "grossly shocking'' that the prosecutors claimed they weren't aware the material would assist the defendants in their defense.
"The government was well aware of theories of self defense, provocation and intimidation,'' Navarro said. "Here the prosecution has minimized the extent of prosecutorial misconduct.''
The judge issued her ruling in 30 minutes from the bench. Just before the hearing, Ryan Bundy led relatives and supporters in prayer in the courtroom corridor, even saying a prayer for the judge.
"Father in heaven ... we thank you for the protection that was given to us over this duration of time and through this trouble," he said, his head bowed as he held his cowboy hat over his chest. "We ask that you bless Judge Navarro and she will choose to side with thee and liberty. ... Father in heaven, we need our father home. Father in heaven, we need freedom back in our land."
After the judge's decision, when asked for his reaction, Ryan Bundy laughed and said, "It's about time. It's about time."
Ammon Bundy, holding black bound copies of the Bible and the Book of Mormon, called his wife and said, "I'm going to go home, take care of my family and go to work." He also plans to celebrate his youngest child's birthday. The boy turned 3 on Monday and Bundy missed the first two birthdays while he was in custody or at the Malheur refuge.
He promised to keep working for his cause. "I'm not done fighting by any means," he said.
For Ryan Payne, who awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to federal conspiracy in the 2016 armed takeover of the refuge in southeastern Oregon, the judge's ruling was "bittersweet,'' said assistant federal public defender Brenda Weksler. Payne was ordered to report to the U.S. Marshal's office to determine if he'll be held while awaiting sentencing in Oregon.
"This prosecution has really been a tragedy for everyone involved,'' said Ryan Norwood, Payne's co-counsel, assistant federal public defender Ryan Norwood. "Ryan Bundy, Cliven and Ammon lost two years of their lives from this.''
Public land advocates fear the fumbling of the Nevada case, following the 2016 jury acquittals of the Bundy brothers and others in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, will buoy the Bundys' claims of federal government overreach and embolden militias to engage in future armed standoffs with federal officers over management of public land.
"This is an outrage, a total miscarriage of justice,'' said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director for the Center for Biological Diversity, outside the courthouse later Monday. "The prosecution mangled this case. It should have been a slam dunk.''
Donnelly said he thinks the dismissal will embolden the Bundys "fringe movement,'' though he doesn't think their actions have led to a huge rise in support.
"Bundy is an outlier. This whole movement is an outlier fringe movement,'' Donnelly said. "But it only takes a handful.''
Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League, decried the government's mistakes and predicted future armed standoffs as a result.
"This case represented the last opportunity for justice in this case of extremists who had organized in armed opposition to the government,'' he said.
The judge on Dec. 20 declared a mistrial after finding prosecutors withheld six types of evidence from defendants that should have been shared at least a month before the trial started. She said then that she would consider whether to dismiss the case outright or allow a new trial.
Cliven Bundy, 71, Ammon Bundy, 45, and Ryan Bundy, 42 and co-defendant Ryan Payne, 34, were indicted last year on conspiracy and other allegations, accused of rallying militia members and armed supporters to stop federal agents from impounding Bundy cattle in April 2014. Federal officers and rangers were acting on a court order filed after Cliven Bundy failed to pay grazing fees and fines for two decades. Outnumbered, the federal officers retreated and halted the cattle impoundment on April 12, 2014.
The judge found the prosecutors' violations were "willful" and led to due process violations. She said they waited too long to provide FBI and other agency reports and maps on surveillance, including the location of a camera and snipers, outside the Bundy ranch; threat assessments that indicated the Bundys weren't violent; and nearly 500 pages of U.S. Bureau of Land Management internal affairs documents that included paperwork indicating that cattle grazing hadn't threatened the desert tortoise, considered an endangered species.
Late disclosures of evidence trickled out just before and during the start of the trial "by happenstance,'' defense lawyers noted. One government witness under cross-examination by Ryan Bundy acknowledged watching live-feed video images from an FBI surveillance camera and another referenced a 2012 FBI threat assessment that determined the Bundys weren't likely to be violent. In pretrial motions, Ryan Bundy requested evidence on any "mysterious devices'' outside the Bundy ranch in early April 2014, and Payne's lawyers sought all threat assessments in July 2017, but prosecutors didn't turn over the information until ordered days before or during trial.
Defense lawyers argued that the government didn't "seem to recognize'' or "professed ignorance'' on what constituted Brady material, required by the 1963 landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brady v. Maryland to be shared with the defense.
The defense lawyers urged dismissal, saying it was the only sufficient remedy for the government's callous disregard of its constitutional obligations to share any potentially favorable evidence with the defense.
Weksler, who represents Payne, argued that prosecutors repeatedly failed to abide by deadlines for sharing discovery evidence, were dismissive of specific requests for evidence, engaged in a "pattern to ridicule and disparage the defense" requests and then made "brazen proffers" to the court that specific information didn't exist, only to find out later that they were mistaken.
"The fact that the government sought to ask a jury to convict these defendants and then ask this Court to sentence them to prison for the rest of their lives without giving the defense the information recently disclosed should more than trouble this Court,'' Weksler wrote in a recently unsealed motion to dismiss.
Prosecutors countered that any failure to provide evidence was "inadvertent'' or because they reasonably believed the law didn't require them to share the material. They sought a new trial, arguing that they "neither flagrantly violated nor recklessly disregarded" their evidence obligations, but believed the material they failed to share in a timely manner wasn't relevant for the defendants' defense.
Myhre, who until last week served as Nevada's acting U.S. attorney but is back in his earlier role as first assistant U.S. attorney, wrote in a court brief that he and his colleagues believed the court's restrictions barring self-defense arguments during earlier standoff trials this year meant his team didn't have to share information about certain aspects of the law enforcement response.
Prosecutors and the lead FBI agents in the case quietly sat listening to the judge's ruling Monday. They did not make any statements in court or afterwards.
The government may appeal the dismissal. The judge did not find "double jeopardy'' The prosecution team in recent weeks added a new assistant U.S. attorney, Elizabeth White, the chief appellate lawyer in the Nevada U.S. attorney's office. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also sent an evidence discovery expert to the federal prosecutors' office in Las Vegas after the mistrial to review the case.
Co-defendants convicted during two prior Bunkerville standoff trials are likely to seek the dismissal of their cases through appeals, arguing that they went to trial without the evidence that came out piecemeal during the last trial.
The judge, however, ruled this month, that the defendants still awaiting trial - Melvin Bundy, Dave Bundy, Jason Woods and Joseph O'Shaughnessy could not join the motion to dismiss by Cliven Bundy and his sons because they failed to demonstrate how the prosecutions' violations in this last trial harmed their rights, as deadlines for the governments' sharing of evidence hasn't expired yet for their cases.
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Posts: 17365 | From: Tulsa | Registered: Jan 2002
-------------------- "Government at its best is a necessary evil, and at it’s worst, an intolerable one." Thomas Paine (from "Common Sense" 1776) Posts: 826 | From: Omaha Nebraska | Registered: Nov 2013
quote:U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown on Tuesday ordered Malheur occupation leader Ryan Payne back into custody in Oregon. A day earlier, Payne and members of the Bundy family were handed a stunning legal victory in Las Vegas in a separate case.
Payne must report to the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Portland by noon Thursday, Brown ruled from the bench.
“We need to return him to the position he was in when he went to Nevada,” Brown said during a court hearing Tuesday.
Payne is currently on pretrial release in Las Vegas and subject to GPS monitoring. U.S. Marshals previously transported Payne to Nevada to face charges related to a 2014 armed standoff between the Bureau of Land Management, ranchers and members of the Bundy family.
Payne was granted pretrial release in December after it surfaced that prosecutors had withheld information from defendants.
The only reason Payne was released, rather than being held in pretrial custody, was that he was “preparing his joint defense with other defendants,” Brown said Tuesday. “Now that no longer exists.”
Arranging Payne’s transportation from Las Vegas to Portland has proven challenging.
U.S. Marshals said they could take Payne into custody in Las Vegas and transport him to Oregon, but that would take at least one week.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoff Barrow said that was the government’s preference, but Brown seemed to want Payne moved as quickly as possible.
Commercial fights were also discussed, but Payne’s attorneys said his photo ID was seized by the FBI when he was arrested along a rural Oregon highway nearly two years ago. Identification is required at airport security.
Brown eventually agreed to allow Bundy family supporter Kelli Stewart to drive Payne the 973 miles from Las Vegas to Portland, pending a background check of Stewart.
A release hearing for Payne was set for Jan. 23 in Oregon.
Lisa Hay, Payne’s attorney in Oregon, pushed to get a hearing later this week. But Brown said she wasn’t available and out of town next week on court related business.
On Monday, a federal judge in Nevada dismissed with prejudice the government cases against Payne, brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy and family patriarch Cliven Bundy.
The Bundy brothers led the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and were acquitted by a jury.
But in July 2016, before the refuge trial, Payne pleaded guilty to conspiracy, a felony. During previous court hearings, federal prosecutors in Oregon have said they plan to recommend Payne serve 3-4 years in prison.
Brown set Payne’s sentencing date for Feb. 27.
Onward and upward, airforce
Posts: 17365 | From: Tulsa | Registered: Jan 2002
Fed's misconduct in Cliven Bundy case stems from Ruby Ridge
By James Bovard
Federal judge Gloria Navarro slammed the FBI and Justice Department on Monday, Jan. 8, for “outrageous” abuses and “flagrant misconduct” in the prosecution of Cliven Bundy and sons, the Nevada ranchers who spurred a high-profile standoff with the FBI and Bureau of Land Management in 2014. Navarro condemned the "grossly shocking” withholding of evidence from defense counsel in a case that could have landed the Bundys in prison for the rest of their lives. Navarro, who had declared a mistrial last month, dismissed all charges against the Bundys.
Navarro was especially riled because the FBI spent three years covering up or lying about the role of their snipers in the 2014 standoff. The Bundys faced conspiracy charges because they summoned militia to defend them after claiming FBI snipers had surrounded their ranch. Justice Department lawyers scoffed at this claim but newly-released documents vindicate the Bundys. In an interview Saturday, Ammon Bundy reviled the feds: “They basically came to kill our family, they surrounded us with snipers. And then they wanted to lie about it all like none of it happened."
Many of the heavily-armed activists who flocked to the scene feared that the FBI snipers had a license to kill the Bundys. Their reaction cannot be understood without considering a landmark 1990s case that continues to shape millions of Americans’ attitude towards Washington: the federal killings and coverups at Ruby Ridge.
Randy Weaver and his family lived in an isolated cabin in the mountains of northern Idaho. Weaver was a white separatist who believed races should live apart; he had no record of violence against other races — or anyone else. An undercover federal agent entrapped him into selling a sawed-off shotgun. The feds then sought to pressure Weaver to become an informant but he refused.
After Weaver was sent the wrong court date and failed to show up, the feds launched a vendetta. Idaho lawyer David Nevin noted that U.S.:
“Marshals called in military aerial reconnaissance and had photos studied by the Defense Mapping Agency. They prowled the woods around Weaver’s cabin with night-vision equipment. They had psychological profiles performed and installed $130,000 worth of long-range solar-powered spy cameras. … They even knew the menstrual cycle of Weaver’s teenage daughter, and planned an arrest scenario around it.”
On August 21, 1992, six camouflaged U.S. Marshals carrying machine guns trespassed onto the Weavers’ property. Three marshals circled close to the Weaver cabin and killed one of their dogs. A firefight ensued and 14-year old Sammy Weaver was shot in the back and killed as he was leaving the scene. Kevin Harris, a family friend, responded by fatally shooting a federal marshal who had fired seven shots in the melee.
Judge dismisses charges against Cliven Bundy in criminal conspiracy case https://t.co/R2d9jrsD35 pic.twitter.com/m3trsAVsdY — The Hill (@thehill) January 8, 2018
The next day, the FBI sent in its Hostage Rescue Team snipers with orders to shoot to kill any adult male outside the Weaver cabin. A federal appeals court ruling later noted that:
“FBI agents formulated rules of engagement that permitted their colleagues to hide in the bushes and gun down men who posed no immediate threat. Such wartime rules are patently unconstitutional for a police action.”
FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi shot Randy Weaver in the back after he stepped out of his cabin, wounding him. Horiuchi then shot and killed Vicki Weaver standing in the cabin door holding their 10-month old baby. A confidential 1994 Justice Department task force report concluded:
“The absence of a (surrender demand) subjected the Government to charges that it was setting Weaver up for attack.”
Weaver and Harris surrendered after an 11-day siege. At their 1993 trial, federal prosecutors asserted that Weaver long conspired to have an armed confrontation with the government. The feds bizarrely asserted that moving from Iowa to a spot near the Canadian border in 1985 was part of Weaver’s plot. After an Idaho jury largely exonerated the defendants, federal judge Edward Lodge slammed DOJ and FBI misconduct and fabrication of evidence in the case.
Regardless of the judge’s condemnation, FBI chief Louis Freeh in 1995 exonerated the FBI for its actions at Ruby Ridge. That year, after I slammed Freeh’s whitewash in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, Freeh denounced my “inflammatory and unfounded allegations.” Five months later, I snared a confidential 542-page Justice Department report on Ruby Ridge, excerpting its damning findings in a Wall Street Journal piece. The coverup unraveled and the feds paid the Weaver family $3.1 million to settle their wrongful-death lawsuit. A top FBI official was sent to prison for destroying key evidence.
JUST IN: Judge declares mistrial in Cliven Bundy case https://t.co/AAi4EBjvHT pic.twitter.com/8rACv7purg — The Hill (@thehill) December 20, 2017
But the FBI sniper who killed Vicki Weaver never faced justice. When Boundary County, Idaho, sought to prosecute Horiuchi in 1998, the Clinton administration invoked the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution (which blocks local and state governments from challenging federal power) to torpedo their lawsuit. Solicitor General Seth Waxman absolved the sniper because “federal law-enforcement officials are privileged to do what would otherwise be unlawful if done by a private citizen.”
While that claim may sway federal judges, it often fails to charm jurors. A Justice Department brief in the Bundy case revealed that prosecutors dreaded jury nullification — “not guilty” verdicts due to government abuses. That specter spurred prosecutors to withhold key evidence from both the court and the defense counsel, resulting in a mistrial and dismissal of charges.
Judge Navarro rightly declared that “a universal sense of justice has been violated” by federal misconduct in the Bundy trial. Americans’ trust in the FBI and Justice Department will not be restored until those agencies are compelled to obey the law and the Constitution. Until that happens, federal prosecutors should continue fearing verdicts from Americans who refuse to convict those whom the feds wrongfully vilify.
James Bovard is a USA Today columnist and the author of 10 books, including “Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty” (St. Martin’s Press, 1994).
-------------------- "The time for war has not yet come, but it will come and that soon, and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Gen. T.J. Jackson, March 1861 Posts: 15432 | From: A 059 Btn 16 FF MSC | Registered: Oct 2001