February 9, 2017 - 10:46am
http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/bu...standoff-trialLas Vegas jury hears opening statements in first Bunkerville standoff trial
Cattle rancher Cliven Bundy’s armed stand against the federal government was either an assault on law enforcement by self-described militiamen or a freedom festival led by cowboys at home on the range, depending on who was addressing jurors Thursday in a crowded Las Vegas courtroom.
The April 2014 standoff in Bunkerville followed a five-word order the 70-year-old rancher gave to hundreds of protesters at a morning rally: “Cowboys, go get ‘er done.”
What happened after those remarks was the subject of much contention when the trial of six people charged as Bundy’s co-conspirators opened Thursday in federal court.
In a dramatic opening statement, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre gave the jury a vivid description of how the six people on trial complied with Bundy’s request. He said the gunmen assumed tactical positions — on a highway overpass or the high banks of a dried-up wash — in preparation for battle against Bureau of Land Management agents stationed in the sandy ditch below them.
The terrain acted like a funnel, and federal officers who were executing a court order to seize Bundy’s cattle were at the bottom of it, Myrhe said. He showed jurors pictures of the six defendants, armed and wearing tactical gear.
‘TOO MANY GUNS’
He described the BLM agents as cornered and afraid, with nothing but a flimsy metal gate separating them from an angry mob of hundreds of people, dozens of horses and “too many guns to count.”
Protesters did not listen to verbal instructions, and authorities could not use pepper spray for fear of starting a gunfight, Myhre told jurors. Outgunned and outnumbered, the federal officers had no choice but to release the cattle and head home, he said.
Bundy for decades let his cattle roam on hundreds of thousands of acres of federal land. He refused to pay grazing fees or to acknowledge court orders to remove the animals, Myhre said. When BLM agents started cattle impoundment operations, the rancher vowed to stop them at any cost.
“He got what he wanted, and he got it at the end of a rifle barrel,” Myrhe said. “These defendants knowingly and willingly supplied the barrel.”
Defense attorneys countered the government’s description of a planned assault with claims that the standoff resulted from a miscommunication and excessively forceful federal agents.
Bundy’s instructions to protesters — to go retrieve his cattle and “get ‘er done” — came after the local sheriff announced that BLM agents had left town, defense teams argued. They said protesters traveled 5 miles from the rally site to the impoundment site for a ceremonious release of the cattle.
‘FLAGS AND COWBOYS’
“It was festive. It was flags and cowboys,” defendant Todd Engel, an Idaho resident who is representing himself, said in his opening statement. “It doesn’t get more down home than that.”
Jurors’ attention was locked on Engel, who was dressed in a plaid, button-down shirt and spoke in a calm, even tone. Engel said he and others arrived on the Interstate 15 overpass and realized federal authorities were not only still assembled in the ditch, but had their rifles raised and aimed at protesters.
Engel was photographed in a prone position, pointing a rifle through a crack in the jersey barrier. He said he was down in that position for about 10 minutes to rest his back following a recent surgery.
Defense attorney Terrence Jackson, representing Gregory Burleson, said authorities shouted a “mumble jumble” of inaudible instructions at protesters when they arrived. Protesters filled the bridge and also streamed into the low-lying wash near the impoundment site.
“If you ever think of how ants communicated, that’s what happened at this point,” said defense attorney Todd Leventhal, who represents Idaho resident Scott Drexler. “There was no conspiracy. There was no planning. There was no organization at all.”
Defense attorneys showed the jury a photo and two videos that were widely shared online in the days before the standoff. They said online postings, rather than a call from Bundy for militiamen, were the reason their clients traveled to Bunkerville.
The first was a “First Amendment corral in the middle of the desert,” Leventhal said, pointing to a photo of the plastic orange fencing that cordoned off the area limiting where people could protest. Defense attorneys also showed videos of BLM authorities using a stun gun on Bundy’s son and knocking a middle-aged grandmother to the ground.
‘NOTHING TO GAIN’
“At that point, I knew something had to be done,” Engel said. “I had nothing to gain … but I knew somehow I just had to go there.”
Engel said he knew nothing about the Bundy family or the BLM when he and two friends drove 12 hours to Bunkerville.
“I didn’t conspire with anybody because I didn’t know anybody,” he said.
Attorneys for Eric Parker and Richard Lovelin chose not to give opening statements Thursday, but Parker’s lawyer, Jess Marchese, sent a bold statement to jurors by coming to court dressed in a cobalt blue suit with a flashy Uncle Sam tie. Defense attorneys are expected to reference constitutional rights to freely assemble and to bear arms throughout the duration of the trial. The government plans to call its first witness Monday.
Prosecutors characterize the six men standing trial as the “least culpable” among 17 co-conspirators facing trial on extortion, assault, threats and other charges. Engel, Lovelin, Burleson, Parker, Drexler and Steven Stewart have tried to distance themselves from the Bundy family in an effort to convince jurors that they were not part of a conspiracy.
The remaining defendants, including Bundy, will be tried in two subsequent trials.
FEB 13 2017 - 5:54PM
http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/bu...rial-las-vegasTestimony begins in Bunkerville standoff trial in Las Vegas
Defiant cattle rancher Cliven Bundy tossed a court order out the window of his truck and tried to pay grazing fees to Clark County instead of the federal government, a Justice Department lawyer testified Monday as prosecutors began to establish the chain of events that led to an armed standoff in Bunkerville in 2014.
Justice Department lawyer Terry Petrie took the witness stand Monday in the federal trial of six people accused of conspiring with Bundy to block the Bureau of Land Management from impounding the rancher’s cattle.
Petrie testified that several months before the cattle roundup, Bundy told him that “if the federal government showed up to impound his cattle … he would then physically respond.”
“He said he would be soliciting the assistance of his neighbors, his friends and his supporters,” Petrie said.
Petrie read from court documents dating to the early ‘90s that detail Bundy’s various attempts to flout federal court orders regarding his livestock. The testimony provided jurors a snapshot of the legal saga that resulted in the politically charged, armed confrontation.
In response to a mid-1990s court ruling, Bundy accused the BLM of harassing him, threw the court order out the window of his truck and drove away, Petrie testified. He said Bundy’s son then picked up the order, tore it into pieces and threw it on the ground.
Petrie testified that the rancher mailed a check for nearly $2,000 to Clark County in 1995. The amount, if paid to the proper agency, would have covered one year of grazing fees. But Bundy, who previously has said that the county sheriff has jurisdiction over the federal lands, refused to pay the federal government. Clark County returned the check to Bundy, Petrie said.
Earlier in the day, a defense attorney representing one of the men on trial announced he recently received an unredacted version of a report that accuses a BLM agent of several conduct violations, including using his position to obtain sold-out Burning Man tickets in 2015.
Todd Leventhal, who represents defendant Scott Drexler, previously had cited suspicions that the federal agent targeted in the report is the same person who oversaw the cattle impoundment in Bunkerville.
“The unredacted version is quite scary, your honor,” Leventhal said.
The attorney said five or six other government witnesses were mentioned in the report, in addition to the special agent who is targeted. That agent was not named in open court Monday, but court filings suggest that defense attorneys believe it is Special Agent in Charge Dan Love.
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro did not immediately rule on the issue. BLM Agent Rand Stover, who testified Monday, is among the people whom Leventhal indicated he would like to ask about the report, but court adjourned before defense lawyers had a chance to cross-examine the witness.
In questioning Stover Monday, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre tried to chip away at defense contentions that federal authorities restricted protesters’ First Amendment rights to freely assemble when they created a designated First Amendment area near the cattle roundup.
Stover testified under direct examination that the public lands were closed during the impoundment operation to ensure safety.
He said the “First Amendment area,” which was marked with orange cattle tape, was intended to create a safe place for the public “where they could see what was going on.”
February 14, 2017 - 1:43pm
http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/bu...s-posed-threatBLM agent tells Las Vegas jury that Bundy supporters posed threat
Supporters of Cliven Bundy posed a significant threat to federal authorities who tried to impound the rancher’s cattle, a Bureau of Land Management agent testified Tuesday in the trial of six men charged in the 2014 armed standoff in Bunkerville.
“In my opinion, their emotions were high, and they were using strong language to challenge our authority,” BLM special agent Rand Stover testified.
The agent was answering a question about the threat of violence in the hours leading up to the standoff.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre on Tuesday drew hours of testimony from Stover about the menacing nature of Bundy’s supporters. Myhre asked him about specific details, such as the presence of a gas mask attached to one protester’s belt, in an effort to convince the jury that law enforcement officers felt threatened and feared for their lives.
The six men on trial are accused of conspiring with Bundy to block the BLM from seizing the cattle from a federal grazing allotment near Bundy’s ranch in Bunkerville.
Defense lawyers portrayed the interactions between protesters and the government in a different light when it was their turn to cross-examine Stover on Tuesday.
In questioning the witness, they played videos to support their claims that law enforcement authorities were the aggressors against a peaceful group of protesters exercising their constitutional rights. One of the videos depicted law enforcement officers using a stun gun and a police dog in detaining one of Bundy’s sons several days before the standoff.
Defense attorney Todd Leventhal, who represents O. Scott Drexler, grilled Stover with a pointed line of questioning in an apparent attempt to reveal misconduct by the witness’ supervisor, special agent in charge Dan Love, who oversaw the impoundment operation at Bundy’s ranch in 2014.
Previous court filings have revealed that defense attorneys suspect him to be the same person who was accused of misconduct in a recent report from the Office of the Inspector General. The report slammed an unnamed BLM agent for bullying his subordinates and for using his position to obtain sold-out Burning Man tickets.
Leventhal recently obtained an unredacted version of the investigative report and said this week that it references up to six government witnesses who are involved in the Bunkerville case. The defense attorney’s cross-examination Tuesday suggested that Stover was one of them.
“If you ever saw SAC Dan Love do something illegal, would you file a complaint?”
“Yes,” Stover said.
“If you ever saw SAC Love do something unethical, would you file an internal complaint?”
A long pause followed. Stover bowed his head and nodded slowly.
“I’d like to think that I would,” he said.
“It’s a yes or a no,” the attorney said.
“Well, I had other problems,” Stover said.
After prosecutors objected, U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro did not allow the witness to elaborate.
The redacted version of the report included allegations that the unnamed agent intimidated employees who may have reported his wrongdoing. Some employees said they did not come forward with allegations sooner for fear of retaliation.
February 15, 2017 - 2:37pm
http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/bu...d-cliven-bundyLas Vegas jury views video of April 2014 rally led by Cliven Bundy
n response to news that federal agents decided to stop rounding up his cattle, rancher Cliven Bundy grabbed a microphone and delivered an ultimatum to the local sheriff.
“Disarm the park service,” he bellowed at a morning rally on April 12, 2014, after Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie announced that the Bureau of Land Management would cease a cattle impoundment operation that resulted from decades of unpaid grazing fees.
“We want those arms delivered … in one hour,” Bundy declared, with the open range behind him and scores of supporters, some of them armed, before him. He also called on the sheriff to “take your county bulldozers and tear down those entry places … where they make us pay the fees” to national parks.
A video of the speech was played in federal court Wednesday during the trial of six men accused of conspiring with Bundy. Prosecutors played several video clips from that day as they tried to piece together for jurors the events that led to the armed standoff in Bunkerville in April 2014. The videos were shot by members of the public who attended the protests.
After an hour passed, Bundy formulated a plan.
“Let’s go get those cattle back,” he told supporters. “All we gotta do is open the gate and let them run out, and they’ll be home.”
Some protesters would block the freeway overpass for safety. Dozens of cowboys on horseback would travel up Power Line road. They would meet under the Toquop Bridge, adjacent to the impoundment site where the BLM had corralled the cattle.
“Get ‘er done, cowboys,” Bundy said. “Let’s go get ‘er done.”
Federal authorities had been watching Bundy closely in the days leading up to the standoff. Undercover BLM agents had posed as Bundy supporters to “continually assess the threat,” BLM Agent Adam Sully testified Wednesday. State and federal law enforcement officers were surveilling the scene from planes and helicopters.
Video shot from the highway overpass shows protesters arriving under the bridge carrying flags, with women, dogs and children in tow. The horsemen lined up in front of the crowd. Ahead of them was the gate to the impoundment site. Behind the gate were roughly 20 armed BLM agents, weapons ready.
Some people — such as the six men standing trial — stayed on high ground, guns in hand. The crowd was raucous and vocal.
Most of the videos were played during testimony from Alex Ellis, a teenager who learned of the protests online and drove from Utah the day before to see the events live. Court adjourned Wednesday before defense attorneys had the chance to cross-examine Ellis.
Sully, who was one of the undercover agents, testified that the day before the standoff, Bundy said: “The range war starts tomorrow.”
In cross-examination of Sully, defense attorneys were quick to point out that no shots were fired. They attacked law enforcement actions in the days preceding the confrontation to support their claims that federal agents were the aggressors.
“Would it be safe to say that the only thing hurt out there was the BLM agents’ feelings?” defendant Todd Engel, who is representing himself, asked. U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro did not let the witness answer.
February 18, 2017 - 7:53pm
http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/bu...l-ethics-probeLetter names BLM agent in charge of Bundy case as target of federal ethics probe
Bureau of Land Management agent Dan Love, a central figure in the government’s case against rancher Cliven Bundy, has been identified as the target of a federal ethics probe in a letter two congressional lawmakers sent to the Office of the Inspector General.
The Feb. 14 letter, sent by U.S. Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, accuses Love of scrubbing emails, influencing witnesses and deleting hundreds of documents the day before a congressional investigative committee issued a records request. Chaffetz and Farenthold sit on the U.S. House Committee for Oversight and Government Reform.
The letter asks the Office of the Inspector General to further investigate Love following its release last month of an investigative report that slammed the agent for numerous ethics violations. The report found Love used his position to obtain tickets to a sold-out Burning Man festival, improperly intervened in the hiring process of a friend and bullied employees who could have reported his wrongdoing.
The latest allegations are likely to fuel defense arguments in the trial against six men charged as Bundy’s co-conspirators in a 2014 armed standoff in Bunkerville. The incident occurred when the BLM, supervised by Love, tried to seize Bundy’s cattle.
Defense lawyers previously have suggested that Love is the target of the inspector general’s report, and have tried to introduce evidence related to the ethics accusations. They argue the standoff occurred because law enforcement officers acted improperly and aggressively.
In the letter, Chaffetz and Farenthold accuse Love of destroying federal records, tampering with witnesses and obstructing a congressional investigation. They cite unreleased records, including interviews with other BLM employees who were questioned during the inspector general’s investigation.
“After receiving a congressional request for documents, the witness heard Dan Love ‘say to (another BLM employee] that [said BLM employee) needed to make sure that he scrubbed the emails before he sent them, you know, flagging anything that looked inappropriate so that (Dan Love) could remove them if he needed,” the letter says.
The letter also accuses Love of trying to influence the investigation’s outcome by giving another employee “talking points” before an interview with investigators.
The letter does not identify the other employees interviewed about Love’s alleged misconduct. But defense attorney Todd Leventhal said last week that the investigative report named as many as five or six BLM employees who are on the government’s witness list in the Bunkerville standoff trial. Leventhal has said the other employees “aided and abetted” Love; First U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre maintains they were simply questioned as part of the investigation.
Myhre’s opening statement to jurors included references to Love’s efforts to de-escalate the standoff. The prosecutor since has said he does not plan to call Love, who was the special agent in charge, as a witness.
Chaffetz and Farenthold did not disclose what prompted them to investigate Love. But Chaffetz, who leads the House Oversight Committee, has introduced legislation to strip the BLM of its law enforcement functions. During the 2014 standoff with the BLM, Bundy called for participants to “disarm the National Park Service.”
February 28, 2017 - 3:42pm
http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/bu...doff-escalatedBLM ranger testifies that he turned off body cam as Bunkerville standoff escalated
As the 2014 standoff in Bunkerville escalated and authorities started to fear a gunfight, Bureau of Land Management Ranger Patrick Apley turned off his body camera.
“I was mad,” Apley testified Tuesday in the trial against six men accused of conspiring with rancher Cliven Bundy to block federal authorities from seizing cattle. “I felt like we were going to be in a firefight, and I really didn’t want to record that.”
Apley’s body camera recorded the events of April 12, 2014, until the situation reached a boiling point, with armed protesters on one side and armed law enforcement officers on the other. Testimony at the trial has revealed that both sides feared a spray of gunfire on the open range.
“It’s gonna get Western,” Apley said before he stopped recording. Federal prosecutors played the body camera footage in court Tuesday.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre asked Apley why he didn’t want to record a gunfight.
“I didn’t want to record any mayhem,” Apley replied.
Defense attorney Jess Marchese, who represents defendant Eric Parker, hammered the ranger for that decision.
“What’s the purpose of having a body camera?” Marchese asked.
“The purpose of a body camera is to record the incident, however, I was under a lot of stress at that point and I just didn’t want to continue with all that,” Apley said.
In direct examination Tuesday, Myhre, the lead prosecutor, extracted testimony from Apley about the nature and severity of the threat protesters posed to federal law enforcement. As the situation grew increasingly tense — but before federal agents decided to abandon the operation and head home — Apley spent 10 to 15 minutes standing with several other agents behind the bed of a pickup truck, their weapons drawn.
When asked to rate the threat level on a scale of one to 10, Apley said it was “about a 7” — which he said compared only to his combat days.
BLM agents eventually left the site, passing by protesters who Apley said were “flipping us off, telling us to go home.”
Myhre asked Apley how the events in Bunkerville had affected his ability to carry on with his duties.
“I’m more aware of my surroundings now,” the ranger said. “I’m a little bit more leery of people carrying guns, and how they’re carrying guns.”
The six men are standing trial on charges of conspiracy, extortion, threats, and assault for their role in the 2014 armed standoff that occurred after federal authorities tried to seize Bundy’s cattle. They represent the first of three groups of people who will be tried in the case, after federal prosecutors divided the 17 defendants into groups of culpability for trial.
None of the defendants in the first trial is a Nevada resident. Federal prosecutors characterize them as “gunmen” because they drove to Bunkerville and joined armed protests after learning of the clashes through online postings.
March 2, 2017 - 3:20pm
http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/bu...-standoff-caseRyan Bundy asks judge to dismiss his charges in Bunkerville standoff case
Ryan Bundy, who previously accused federal authorities of violating the Constitution when they seized his father’s cattle, now claims he has been denied his right to a speedy trial.
In a motion filed late Wednesday, Bundy asks a federal judge to dismiss his 16-count indictment on threats, extortion and related charges stemming from the 2014 armed standoff near his family ranch in Bunkerville. Prosecutors are trying the first of three groups of people charged in the case, and Bundy is in the second trial group.
“The speedy trial right trumps any countervailing problems with courthouse facilities, overburdened court staff, or caseload,” wrote Bundy, who is representing himself. “The very purpose of the speedy trial right is to disincentivize the filing of onerous, vexatious and unnecessarily complex cases (like this case).”
Bundy accuses the government of tactically delaying the case by structuring it “in a repetitive style with multiplicitous counts to give an appearance of complexity.”
The standoff occurred in April 2014, but prosecutors did not announce charges until February of last year. In the intervening period, federal investigators staged an undercover operation in which they posed as documentary filmmakers to gain access to the people involved.
Bundy asserts that the undercover FBI operation was the “real reason” federal prosecutors did not bring charges until two years after the standoff occurred. He accuses undercover FBI agents of using “attractive women” and “alcohol” to trick his supporters into giving incriminating statements.
“The government spent more than half a million dollars on the creation of a fake film company designed to trick defendants into making boastful, false and incriminating statements that could be used against Defendants,” Bundy wrote in his filing.
Defense attorneys previously argued that evidence gathered during the undercover operation should not be admitted at trial, but a judge sided with the government and ruled the statements were admissible.
Bundy further argues that several key defense witnesses have died in the three years that have passed since the standoff.
“Evidence and witnesses have gone missing and evaporated,” he wrote in his filing.
Among the witnesses who died was LaVoy Finicum, who participated in the Bunkerville standoff and later was shot by law enforcement during protesters’ occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge in early 2016.
“Finicum was also the most important first-hand witness to the distressed and deteriorated condition of the cattle while in BLM custody,” Bundy wrote.
The people charged in the case accuse federal authorities of mistreating the cattle during the impoundment operation, but the judge has limited defense attorneys in what evidence they can introduce at trial related to cattle mistreatment.
Bundy and his brother, Ammon, who likewise is being held without bail pending trial, recently were acquitted on charges related to the 41-day standoff in Oregon.
In Wednesday’s filing, Ryan Bundy wrote that he has been held “in solitary confinement or in distant holding cells without legal materials or focused on other false federal charges in the U.S. District of Oregon.”
He is being held at Nevada Southern Detention Center in Pahrump.
The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on Bundy’s filing.
March 2, 2017 - 6:17pm
http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/bu...standoff-trialJudge dismisses juror for nodding off during Bunkerville standoff trial
A federal judge Thursday dismissed one of the jurors seated for the trial against six men accused of conspiring with rancher Cliven Bundy.
The woman, identified only as “juror 12,” was dismissed late Thursday after U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro noticed her falling asleep on several occasions during testimony. The jury includes four alternates, so the case will not be affected by the juror’s dismissal.
“We appreciate so much you being here, and … all the things you had to do to rearrange your life,” Navarro said in dismissing the juror. “I can’t thank you enough for your time.”
The government is in its second week of calling witnesses to testify against six people charged as “gunmen” in the 2014 armed standoff near Bundy’s ranch in Bunkerville.
Most of the witnesses have been federal law enforcement officers who have given similar accounts of the events of April 12, 2014. The trial is expected to last weeks due to the voluminous government evidence and the number of defendants — each of whom have the opportunity, through their attorneys, to cross-examine every witness.
Earlier this week, Navarro called juror 12 into the courtroom and raised concerns that she was “nodding off” too much. The juror assured the judge that she was awake, and said sometimes she was just closing her eyes to take in information or to look at visual evidence displayed on the screen positioned directly in front of her knees.
Before she dismissed juror 12, Navarro questioned two other jurors who had noticed the woman sleeping.
Juror 13, who was seated next to juror 12 for the trial, told the judge, “We all know to wake her up.”
“Sometimes I get tapped by the guys in the back,” he said. He also said sometimes fellow jurors who sit behind him “make some kind of comment, as low as they can.”
When Navarro asked him how many times he saw juror 12 fall asleep, he replied, “More than five.”
“I’m going to go ahead and excuse her,” Navarro said after all jurors had left the courtroom. “I don’t see how I can allow her to stay.”
Navarro ordered juror 12 not to have any conversations about the case until the trial is over, and threatened to slap her with a civil contempt charge if she disobeys that order.
March 3, 2017 - 8:20pm
http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/bu...-conversationsBunkerville standoff video captures agent conversations
Prosecutors trying the case against six of rancher Cliven Bundy’s supporters played hours of video footage this week that gave the public a peek into the minds of federal law enforcement officers as the 2014 confrontation with armed protesters unfolded in Bunkerville.
When Bureau of Land Management Agent Mark Brunk testified early in the week, prosecutors played dash cam footage that recorded him uttering an expletive, followed by, “You come find me and you’re gonna have hell to pay.”
Another agent laughed, and replied, “Pretty much a shoot first, ask questions later kind of thing.”
The statements were made after a crowd of hundreds of cowboys and supporters arrived at Toquop Wash, a sandy ditch that served as the headquarters for the court-ordered cattle roundup that sparked the protests. The protesters had traveled 5 miles, by horse and by car, from a morning rally where Bundy — upon learning the government was ceasing its operation — ordered supporters to go get his cows.
The conversations among law enforcement grew more serious as officers scanned the crowd for guns, and the footage captured their frantic conversations. First they didn’t notice any long guns. Then they saw two. Then at least five. Then 10.
“If we get any more guns, we’re gonna be outgunned,” a law enforcement officer remarked at one point.
The footage captured expressions of fear and humor, and some of the government’s witnesses testified that their jokes and laughter reflected coping mechanisms, or expressions of nervous energy. Prosecutors have asked nearly every law enforcement witness to rank their fear on a scale of 1 to 10. None of them has rated it below a 5, and one officer gave it a 10.
Defense lawyers, meanwhile, highlighted portions of the video that recorded agents mocking protesters. The line of questioning reflected an attempt to prove that the government witnesses’ fear is overstated.
“There’s no gun there … He’s just holding his back, he’s standing like a sissy,” one agent said of a protester as authorities assessed the scene about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
As one woman in the crowd screamed angrily, two law enforcement officers chuckled.
“She must not be married,” one said.
The videos captured protesters yelling things like, “Get the hell out of here.” Throughout the footage, a BLM agent makes the same statement repeatedly over a megaphone: “This area is closed for the enforcement of a United States District Court order. Please leave the area.”
United States Park Police Officer Brandon Novotny testified Thursday that law enforcement officials attended a briefing the day before the standoff. He said officials were alerted to numerous people on “domestic terrorist watch lists in and among the protesters at the Bundy campground.”
Novotny was photographed in a military-style “stacking formation” with other federal agents, armed and wearing SWAT gear.
“I took a moment to think about my family,” he said, his voice cracking. “I made my peace with God … I expected to die that day.”
The six men standing trial are charged as “gunmen,” accused of conspiring with Bundy to thwart the government’s efforts to carry out a court order. Prosecutors describe them as the least culpable of the 17 people they eventually plan to try in the case.
March 6, 2017 - 8:54pm
http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/bu...ndy-supportersTempers flare, nerves fray in trial against Bundy supporters
A downtown Las Vegas courtroom provided scenes as wild as a Western movie Monday when federal prosecutors and defense attorneys battled over nearly every piece of evidence presented in the trial against six of rancher Cliven Bundy’s supporters.
Defense attorneys tried to block a government witness from testifying. A prosecutor invoked an evidence rule that led even the judge to flip open a legal handbook. A juror made a wisecrack that caused one lawyer to raise concerns of potential bias.
By 4 p.m., U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro had sent the jury home early and told them not to return until Wednesday.
The day’s most hotly disputed footage was played outside the presence of the jury when defense lawyer Todd Leventhal tried to bring into evidence a video from the April 2014 standoff in Bunkerville. The video was captured by a Fox News cameraman, and Leventhal, who represents Bundy supporter O. Scott Drexler, wanted the judge to let him play it when he cross-examined Bureau of Land Management Ranger Gregory Johnson.
Johnson testified as a government witness Monday. On April 12, 2014, he was recorded on dashboard camera footage using a megaphone to repeatedly order protesters to disperse.
The protesters, who were gathered near the site where federal authorities had been impounding Bundy’s cattle, screamed angrily. At one point on the footage, authorities referenced a man walking towards them — “blue shirt, looks like press.”
The cameraman was identified in court only by his surname, Lynch. Defense lawyers tried to use the footage he captured to bolster their arguments that protesters could not understand law enforcement’s instructions from 200 yards away on a windy day.
On the video, Lynch walks toward the cattle impoundment site where federal authorities were headquartered.
“I do not have a weapon — I am shooting for Fox News,” he yelled. “May I approach so this doesn’t end in bloodshed … the people don’t want to get hurt.”
“You are in violation of a U.S. District Court order,” Johnson’s voice boomed over the megaphone.
“I am the press!” Lynch shouted.
“Why? Why can’t you talk to me?!”
“You are in violation …”
“I have no weapon! Are you really gonna shoot these people?” Lynch exclaimed. “We can’t hear your announcement that far away.”
Navarro would not allow the video into evidence Monday, but she told Leventhal he could play it for jurors if he calls Lynch as a defense witness.
The drama intensified Monday when Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Dickinson, questioning the witness for the second time, declared that he was invoking an evidence rule to publish notes from an FBI interview with Johnson. The interview first was referenced by defense attorney Jess Marchese, who tried to suggest that the witness exaggerated in about the threat level in his trial testimony.
Dickinson asked Johnson to read directly from a line in the April 2014 FBI report.
“When asked if he felt threatened or intimidated, Johnson responded with, ‘Yes. Most definitely. We were f——d.”
When Johnson finished testifying and prosecutors called their next witness, defense attorneys responded furiously because Sgt. Tom Jenkins of Las Vegas’ Metropolitan Police Department was not on the original government witness list.
Judge Navarro allowed Jenkins to testify under direct examination, but she canceled testimony in the trial Tuesday to give defense attorneys an extra day to prepare for cross-examination.
The jury was shuttled in and out of the courtroom during Monday’s legal wrangling. Their expressions displayed both laserlike focus and utter confusion as they watched the heated but legally dense disputes unfold.
Before Jenkins testified, the judge asked jurors whether they recognized him.
One juror replied, “Only from the TV show ‘Cops.’”
His joke drew chuckles, but also a challenge from Leventhal, who asked the judge to bring the juror in for questioning Thursday.
March 8, 2017 - 8:05pm
http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/bu...standoff-trialCameraman testifies during Bunkerville standoff trial
A media cameraman who tried, unsuccessfully, to mediate the Bunkerville standoff gave hours of testimony Wednesday while federal prosecutors played shaky, handheld footage that provided a more dynamic view of the protests than anything previously disclosed on dashcam recordings.
The government called Dennis Michael Lynch as a witness after fighting ferociously earlier in the week to keep the footage he captured out of court.
Defense attorneys Monday had tried to use some of the videos to rebut a federal agent’s testimony, and prosecutors’ decision to call Lynch reflected a strategic attempt to control the narrative as they continue to present their case against six men accused of conspiring with rancher Cliven Bundy.
Lynch traveled to Bunkerville on assignment for Fox News, and he embedded himself with the protesters demonstrating against authorities who were seizing Bundy’s cattle from federally managed land. He gave emotionally level — but at times antagonistic — responses to lawyers’ questions about the events of April 12, 2014.
His camera rolled as rancher son Ammon Bundy’s pickup truck bounced along the desert highway, passing SWAT vehicles along the way, and stopped at an Interstate 15 rest area above the Toquop Wash, where federal authorities for days had been impounding cattle. Passengers in the back seat of the truck gleefully hooted after learning at a morning rally that the Bureau of Land Management had decided to cease the operation.
When they arrived at the wash, some of the protesters knelt down in prayer. Roughly 100 yards away, law enforcement authorities were behind a metal farm gate. A BLM ranger ordered the boisterous crowd over a megaphone to disperse. Lynch approached him, yelling, to ask what he was saying.
“At this point, Mr. Lynch, could you hear the commands of law enforcement officers to peacefully disperse?” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre asked.
“The video doesn’t depict what could be heard. … There are two microphones attached to the camera,” said Lynch, whose testimony was consistent with a defense script that protesters could not understand the instructions.
At one point during his testimony, Lynch blew into the microphone to demonstrate the muffle of wind, and the pink noise that ricocheted through the courtroom caused several people in the audience to wince.
During the standoff, Lynch returned to the protesters and told them if they moved forward, they would be shot. Myhre, in careful questioning, pointed out that nowhere on the recordings did a federal agent make that threat.
“I was repeating what I thought I heard,” Lynch said.
Myhre also highlighted the fact that Lynch continued to approach after federal agents instructed him to “go back.”
The crowd grew angry and boisterous after Lynch returned, but paused to cheer when dozens of men arrived on horseback. Federal agents previously have testified that many of the protesters had guns.
Lynch and several other protesters later walked back to the barrier separating them from law enforcement. Federal authorities, local police, and the handful of protesters stood, like bulls in separate pens, on three different sides of the metal cattle fencing and began to negotiate.
“Hold those people so we can talk,” BLM Special Agent in Charge Dan Love said, as the crowd chanted “let the cows go” and “BLM, go home.”
One of the protesters replied: “It’s pretty hard to de-escalate when you’ve got helmets and M16s aimed at us.”
“Yes, I understand,” Love said. “Get me Ammon.”
After a tense conversation with Love, some of Bundy’s other sons walked back to the cattle impoundment site with law enforcement, while Ammon Bundy tried to control protesters.
Eventually, Ryan Bundy returned. He climbed onto a sandy bank, took the cowboy hat off his head and waved it against a backdrop of crystal blue sky.
“The West has now been won,” he declared.
March 13, 2017 - 8:51pm
Nevada Highway Patrol sergeant testifies in Bundy trial
A Nevada Highway Patrol sergeant who responded to the 2014 protests in Bunkerville testified Monday that he was “jealous” of one of Cliven Bundy’s supporters because the man carried a radio that broadcast police scanner activity better than a state-issued device.
“Our radios weren’t that clear. I was kind of jealous because his was better than ours,” Sgt. Shannon Selena told jurors Monday.
He was referring to Gregory Burleson <FBI informant:http://www.ronpaulforums.com/showthr...s-FBI-informer p4p>, one of six men in the first group of a three-part federal trial against Bundy and 16 others accused of conspiring to block federal agents from rounding up the rancher’s cows. The jury seated for the first trial has heard hours of testimony about law enforcement’s assessment of the general threat level during the April 2014 standoff, but Monday marked the first time a government witness singled out a defendant for his role in the protests.
Selena said he came into contact with Burleson when he responded to the growing crowd of protesters on the Interstate 15 overpass bridge that overlooked a sandy ditch where federal authorities for days had been impounding cattle from Bureau of Land Management land.
Police scanner activity broadcasts conversations between dispatch and responding officers. The conversations are public record, but Selena said the protester’s monitoring of Metropolitan Police Department air traffic concerned him.
“If there are things that we needed to discuss … we didn’t necessarily want published for everyone to hear,” Selena said. “To just have a citizen with it or a militia member … that’s concerning.”
Burleson’s health has declined rapidly since 2014. He now is blind and requires the use of a wheelchair. He suffers from seizures, which halted the trial for a few hours last week when he fell ill in the middle of testimony. He sat in the back of the courtroom while Selena was on the stand Monday, hidden behind his co-defendants and their lawyers at the two defense tables in front of him.
Selena is one of several local law enforcement officers prosecutors have called in the past week to testify. The agencies’ responses have been an undertone of the trial, especially after Burleson’s attorney implied in opening statements that the Bureau of Land Management agents who handled the impoundment operation were not “real” law enforcement officers.
“The funny thing is the Metro police officers, who are real law enforcement officers who carry guns and deal with hard-core criminals — murderers, rapists … they weren’t scared to death,” Terrence Jackson said in his opening statement to jurors. “Highway Patrol and Metro didn’t think these guys were a super danger, like they were about to go crazy and start pulling the trigger.”
Prosecutors, in presenting their case against the six defendants, have challenged that narrative by calling members of local law enforcement to testify that they perceived a high degree of danger.
Last week, a Metro officer told jurors that he noticed every officer in his skirmish line crying the day of the standoff. Another, when asked about the threat level, gave the protests the highest rating on a 1 to 10 scale.
Selena followed suit Monday and told jurors he texted his then-wife to tell her he loved her, because he was afraid he would not survive the day’s events. He said he still has flashbacks about the day.
Selena highlighted a number of protesters who were armed and wearing military fatigues to emphasize the perceived threat. As he testified, prosecutors played dashboard camera footage from his police cruiser, which was parked on the side of the highway overpass.
Jackson, in animated cross-examination, suggested that Selena exaggerated the threat level. He pointed out that the sergeant did not try to apprehend Burleson the day of the standoff.
“If you were in great fear … you’re not going to turn your back on him like this and just let him have a weapon that’s loaded so they can shoot you?” Jackson asked.
He turned his back on the witness while asking the question to demonstrate his point.
“I was about as apprehensive as I could be that day, sir,” Selena said after Jackson posed several similar questions.
Other defense attorneys made the same argument in a variety of ways. Defense attorney Todd Leventhal highlighted a portion of the dashcam video that recorded Selena’s voice as he tossed a Gatorade bottle into the front passenger seat of his cruiser.
“Everything is peaceful,” the sergeant said, apparently speaking over his radio as protesters started to gather. “All good.”
March 22, 2017 - 7:53pm
http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/bu...-fbi-operationBundy defendants interviewed in undercover FBI operation
Undercover FBI agents posed as documentary filmmakers for a production titled “America Reloaded” to draw statements from the men who rushed to support rancher Cliven Bundy in his 2014 stand against the federal government.
The undercover operation has been alluded to in previous court filings, but it was detailed in federal court Wednesday when FBI Special Agent Charles Johnson testified as a government witness in the trial against six men accused of conspiring to block Bureau of Land Management agents from impounding Bundy’s cattle.
Agents videotaped undercover interviews with, among other people, Scott Drexler and Eric Parker — two of the defendants in the first trial. Federal prosecutors played the videos in court Wednesday during Johnson’s testimony, and in doing so, gave jurors a window into the defendants’ minds.
Drexler told the undercover agent he drove to the Bundy family ranch after reading about the protests online.
“What I was looking for was just a show of support … it seems as if when there are armed people around a situation, then the authorities have to be a little more civil, have to treat you like a person,” he said. “If nobody is facing any kind of consequences for their actions, they can just do whatever they want.”
When asked what protesters’ objective was on April 12, 2014, when they arrived en masse to the Gold Butte area where federal agents were impounding cattle, Drexler replied: “Basically the objective that I think there was was just a show of force.”
Drexler said he carried his rifle and his pistol. He assumed a position on the Interstate 15 overpass, overlooking the impoundment site. Federal prosecutors have introduced photos of Drexler pointing his rifle through a crack in the jersey barrier.
“We had the cowboys and Cliven all down below us, and BLM on the other side of the gate,” Drexler said on the footage. He said that when BLM “started moving to the gate with weapons and full combat gear, it started to get a little bit tense.”
The standoff occurred after protesters were told at a morning rally that authorities decided to cease the cattle roundup.
The undercover agent asked what would have happened if “somebody just farted.”
“I don’t think a loud fart woulda put anyone off, but a gunshot sure would have,” Drexler said.
Parker provided a similar narrative. He and Drexler, who are friends from Idaho, drove to the Bundy ranch together.
“I want to stand for the Constitution … I don’t think you have to be in the militia for that,” Parker said on the video. “The goal was peaceful end.”
Parker said he raised his rifle from the bridge to get a clear vantage point.
“If they started shooting at people in the crowd, I would have been able to lay down cover fire,” Parker said, which he later explained was shots used to distract anyone who might have fired at the unarmed men, women and children in the sandy ditch below him.
Johnson had not finished testifying when court adjourned Wednesday. The government is expected to call one more witness before resting its case.
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