Cliven Bundy and his family have been in the national news since 2014 when they faced federal authorities over a dispute of land. The government alleges that Bundy was grazing his cattle on federal land since 1993 without the required BLM permit and did not pay the required fees. Authorities allege that Bundy allowed his cattle to graze on public land even though there were court orders in 1998, 1999, and 2013 telling him to remove his cattle.
According to Warren Henry, the BLM and its contractors attempted to impound Bundy cattle in April 2014. Bundy and his sons said that they would do “whatever it takes” to keep their property and took up arms. They were joined by “dozens of armed followers and militiamen who had learned of the confrontation.” The BLM stopped the operation after a week before any one was injured or killed, but they did not stop the case.
Bundy, his sons, and other people were arrested, and cases were tried and retried. Cases were declared mistrials, but the government continued in its quest. Henry explains further.
The federal indictment of Bundy and his codefendants alleges that they engaged in a conspiracy to thwart the impoundment of the cattle. One of the alleged methods of the conspiracy was the use of “deceit and deception” to recruit followers and militiamen, including falsely claiming that the BLM had surrounded the Bundy ranch with snipers. The defendants were also charged with assault, threats against the government, firearms offenses, and obstruction of justice.
As the case went trial, there was new evidence that “raises serious questions about the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) use of FBI surveillance and snipers to confront ranchers who were deemed nonviolent by several government agencies, and whose original offenses were alleged trespassing on federal land and nonpayment of grazing fees.” Just as jury selection started in Bundy’s case, events turned in his favor.
During a pretrial hearing, a National Park Service ranger testified that the FBI had set up at least one surveillance camera on the ranch, a fact the government had previously denied. At the same hearing, Dan Love, the special agent in charge of the BLM operation at the ranch, testified that there had been snipers deployed at the ranch. Love also testified that the government had commissioned threat assessment reports on the Bundys – reports the government had not provided in response to defense requests…
On November 27, 2017, Larry Wooten, a BLM investigator assigned to assess the government’s handling of the Bundy standoff, filed a whistleblower complaint with the Justice Department, alleging he was removed from the investigation after raising concerns about misconduct, including by Love.
Jarrett Stepman of The Daily Signal compares the actions by the BLM with the Bundy’s to those of the IRS that targeted Tea Party groups. He writes that “Governments are prone to abuse, especially when unchecked.” He explains that in the Bundy case, the government overstepped its bounds.
A federal judge ruled December 20 that she was throwing out the Bureau of Land Management’s case against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy because the prosecution withheld key facts. On Monday [January 8, 2018], the same judge ruled that the case could not be tried again due to the actions of the prosecution, which she said had been “outrageous” and “violated due process rights,” according to azcentral.com.
Stepman says that the actions of government officials raised too many questions and “damaged the credibility of the case.” He continues with his article.
What is particularly worrisome is that the Bureau of Land Management appears to have acted punitively against political and religious groups they simply didn’t like…
The agents called Bundy and his supporters “deplorables,” “rednecks,” and “idiots” among many other worse names, Wooten said. They also insulted the Bundy family’s Mormon beliefs.
Their behavior showed clear prejudice toward “the defendants, their supporters, and Mormons,” Wooten wrote.
As Stepman emphasizes, we do not have to believe that the Bundys were in the right in order to recognize that the government overstepped its boundaries. In this case, the government and/or its agents were out of control and needed to be reined in. We should be grateful that a federal judge was willing to recognize this need.