In a blistering rebuke to the federal government, a judge dismissed all charges against rancher Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and militia member Ryan Payne stemming from an armed standoff with federal agents in 2014.
Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro issued a scathing analysis of the government’s conduct, terming it “outrageous.”
“There has been flagrant misconduct, substantial prejudice and no lesser remedy is sufficient,” she said.
The charges were dismissed “with prejudice,” which means the federal government will not be able to retry the men.
One of the lawyers helping the family, Larry Klayman, founder of Freedom Watch, earlier had written to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking him to investigate the FBI’s actions and prosecute those who had misbehaved.
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“It is hoped that after a thorough investigation, that you will fire and thus prevent [FBI agents] from doing further harm to not just the Bundys, but also the public at large. They also should be prosecuted for obstruction of justice, as they are not above the law,” he said at the time.
Klayman, who was portrayed on the television show “West Wing,” has been prevented by a judge from joining the Bundys’ defense team but has been active in other ways.
Monday, he told WND he had raised some of the same issues that irritated the judge in a filing with the FBI’s inspector general, as well as its Office of Professional Responsibility.
“The judge found that the conduct of the FBI and the prosecutors in part was reprehensible and a flagrant violation of the law,” he said, for withholding evidence and even destroying documents.
He described the outcome as a “great victory for the country.”
“We fought the ‘law,’ and we won,” he said.
Spectators cheered as the judge issued her ruling. Bundy and his co-defendants were facing charges including conspiracy, obstruction, and threats against and assault of federal agents.
Navarro declared the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s Office had failed to disclose crucial evidence that would have helped the defense.
- Records about surveillance at the Bundy ranch
- Maps about government surveillance
- Records about the presence of government snipers
- FBI logs about activity at the ranch in the days leading up to standoff
- Law-enforcement assessments dating to 2012 that found the Bundys posed no threat
- Internal affairs reports about misconduct by Bureau of Land Management agents
The government also made false claims, said the judge, including denying the existence of snipers surveying the Bundy ranch, when such snipers existed.
The standoff between federal agents and Bundy supporters resulted from the government’s contention Bundy had been grazing his cattle on publicly owned land and was therefore responsible for a huge amount in past fees. Klayman, among others, has argued the prosecution of the Bundy family was entirely political rather than being rooted in any actual violation of the law.
The cause of the Bundy family was championed by those who believe the federal government has too much control over land in the American West and who are suspicious of the federal government’s intentions.
Such suspicions will only be increased by the ruling on Monday, as Navarro’s decision stated the federal government had violated the most basic rules of conduct. Dan Hill, the lawyer for Cliven’s son Ammon, stated the ruling was “the clearest-cut, most-unwavering dismissal I’ve ever heard or seen.”
The ruling was not without its critics. Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, complained: “The Bundys rallied a militia to mount an armed insurrection against the government. The failure of this case will only embolden this violent and racist anti-government movement that wants to take over our public lands.”
And a number of critics on Twitter, including some “verified accounts” approved by the social-media company, suggested the Bundys were free only because they were white.
White supremacist Cliven Bundy stole federal land and then took up arms against law enforcement and threatened to kill cops, and now he’s about to walk free. Those perks from systematic white supremacy are awesome
— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) January 8, 2018
Thanks to Ammon Bundy, 2016 Is Already a Banner Year for White Supremacy https://t.co/tGRhsMkVuv
— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) January 8, 2018
But Ammon Bundy says he is proud of his family’s actions.
“We have rights,” he told reporters. “We’re not going to walk away from them and just let them be taken.”
Klayman also was leading the case filed by two others acquitted in the case, Montana resident Ricky Lovelien and Idaho resident Steven Stewart, seeking damages from the government for the false claims made against them.
The claims were filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act.