Judge tosses federal case against Cliven Bundy
A federal judge tossed out the government's case against rancher Cliven Bundy, who famously engaged in a stand off with government officials over disputed BLM fees. The judge was none too pleased with prosecutors' conduct:
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro today dismissed with prejudice all federal charges against Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan, and co-defendant Ryan Payne. (The "with prejudice" part means the government can't just try again on the same charges.)
Judge Navarro complained of "flagrant prosecutorial misconduct" in the case against the Bundys, including violating the Brady rule regarding withholding potentially exculpatory evidence from the Bundys legal team.
This decision comes after the same judge last month declared a mistrial in the case; the government was trying to get a new trial launched. As Fox News reported, "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.'"
There is extensive coverage at the link, including news reports of just how far the government officials and attorneys went to deny Bundy a fair trial - including not just withholding documents, but lying about their actions.
James Bovard has a gut wrenching piece on how the government routinely dodges, or simply ignores, its constitutional and case law boundaries to lock people up, and adds this about the Bundy case:
A whistleblowing memo by BLM chief investigator Larry Wooten charges that BLM chose "the most intrusive, oppressive, large scale and militaristic trespass cattle (seizure) possible'' against Bundy. He also cited a "widespread pattern of bad judgment, lack of discipline, incredible bias, unprofessionalism and misconduct, as well as likely policy, ethical and legal violations" by BLM officials in the case. BLM agents even "bragged about roughing up Dave Bundy, grinding his face into the ground and Dave Bundy having little bits of gravel stuck in his face'' while he was videotaping federal agents. Wooten also stated that anti-Mormon prejudice pervaded BLM's crackdown.
The feds charged the Bundys with conspiracy in large part because the ranchers summoned militia to defend them after they claimed that FBI snipers had surrounded their ranch. Justice Department lawyers scoffed at this claim in prior trials involving the standoff but newly-released documents confirm that snipers were in place prior to the Bundy’s call for help.
The feds also belatedly turned over multiple threat assessments which revealed that the Bundys were not violent or dangerous, including an FBI analysis that concluded that BLM was "trying to provoke a conflict" with the Bundys. As an analysis in the left-leaning Intercept observed, federal missteps in this case “fueled longstanding perceptions among the right-wing groups and militias that the federal government is an underhanded institution that will stop at nothing to crush the little guy and cover up its own misdeeds.”