The two sons of Nevada cattleman Cliven Bundy refused to show for their Friday federal court appearance to face charges of conspiring and taking up arms against federal agents.
Instead of appearing in court, Ammon and Ryan Bundy remained in a nearby holding cell, and a speaker was provided so they could hear what was being said in court. U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen had reportedly decided not to force them to attend the hearing if they were unwilling.
A co-defendant, Peter Santilli, blurted out that the Bundy brothers didn’t want to be shackled. The judge warned Santilli that he didn’t get to speak on their behalf. Santilli reportedly said he expects that when Donald Trump becomes president, he’ll intervene on their behalf.
The 17 other co-defendants that did attend the hearing shouted out “oaths of defiance” according to OregonLive.
During the thee-hour hearing, the government requested to have three trials, while the defendants have requested to be tried all together, or in groups of their own choosing.
The judge is still considering the issue, saying it would be “physically and logistically impossible” to try all 17 defendants together in one trial, but it could take months or even years if they were each tried separately. She promised to issue a schedule soon.
The trial is set to start February 6. Dennis Michael Lynch has received a subpoena to testify in the trial, as he was present with his camera on the day the standoff occurred in April 2014 and ended up playing a key role in preventing both sides from firing upon each other.
According to the Oregon Live, “Leen also is considering multiple requests to dismiss charges; a plea for a change of venue to Reno or another city; a suggestion that federal officials shredded documents that would be relevant to the case as they packed up and left temporary offices near Bunkerville; and Cliven Bundy’s lawyer’s insistence that the federal government has no jurisdiction in Clark County.”
Federal prosecutors want three trials, with the first to start Feb. 6 for accused conspiracy leaders Cliven, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, Payne and Santilli.
A second trial would start in May for six alleged “mid-level” standoff leaders and organizers: Bundy sons Dave and Mel Bundy, Brian Cavalier, Micah McGuire, Joseph O’Shaughnessy and Jason Woods.
A third trial would begin in August for six accused “followers and gunmen.” They are Gregory Burleson, O. Scott Drexler, Todd Engel, Ricky Lovelien, Eric Parker and Steven Stewart.
The protest-by-absence of Ammon and Ryan Bundy was exactly what their father did last March when he refused to enter a plea to federal charges that he led the famous armed standoff that stopped a government round-up of cattle on public land about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas back in April of 2014 at the Bundy ranch.
Nobody was injured and no shots were fired in the standoff but the images of dozens of Bundy backers with assault rifles on a freeway overpass driving back federal agents, have become famous and symbolic in the long running battle about states’ rights and federal authority.
The dispute involves over 50 years of fighting over grazing rights in Nevada and the West where the federal government controls massive expanses of land.
The Internet has fueled the debate and awareness of the rancher’s plight with bloggers and social media growing exponentially since the beginning of the protests. Bundy’s fight is against federal agency decisions to designate protected areas for endangered species and set aside tracts for mining, wind farms and natural gas exploration.
The Bundy case defendants face conspiracy, obstruction, weapon, threat and assault on a federal officer charges and they could all wind up serving decades in prison if they’re convicted.
Two others who have pleaded guilty in the case remain in federal custody in southern Nevada, as do the Bundy brothers.
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