In yet another setback to prosecutors in the case against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, his two sons, Ammon and Ryan, and a co-defendant, Ryan Payne, the federal judge handling the case declared a mistrial Wednesday and sent all the jurors home.
Before a packed courtroom, U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro declared her ruling of a mistrial, over the government’s “willful” failure to hand over multiple documents that could help the defense fight charges filed against them in the April 2014 standoff at their ranch near Bunkerville.
The judge cited the following reasons for her ruling, including:
- Six pieces of evidence that prosecutors failed to turn over, including an FBI surveillance camera posted outside the Bundy’s ranch
- Documents that identified BLM snipers outside the ranch
- An FBI log with entries stating “snipers were inserted” and on standby outside the Bundy home
- At least four threat assessments that admitted the Bundys weren’t violent and that the BLM was “antagonizing” the family
- An internal affairs document that admitted there was no documentation of any desert tortoises being injured by Bundy’s cattle grazing on the federal land.
The case is not yet fully dismissed, as the judge gave both sides until Dec. 29 to submit legal briefings on whether the government should be allowed to hold a new trial. Navarro said she would then make a ruling in the future on whether the case should be a “mistrial with prejudice,” meaning no future trial would be held, The Oregonian reported.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a new trial for Bundy, his sons, and co-defendant Ryan Payne, on charges arising from the 2014 standoff, was set for Feb. 15, 2017, 70 days after the declared mistrial.
The Bundys and their supporters had sought a full dismissal of the case, and are cautiously calling the ruling a partial victory.
The judge’s ruling came during the beginning of the third week of testimony in what was expected to be a four-month-long trial. She thanked the 12 jurors and four alternate jurors for their service, and Ryan Bundy also thanked them as they began to file out of the courtroom.
“I would just like to personally thank you for being here. I appreciate your time and your service,” Ryan Bundy said.
Just last week, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s lead investigator, Larry Wooten had released a scathing whistleblower report accusing agents working the case against the Bundy family of far-reaching misconduct, as well as recklessness and unrestrained antipathy toward the family.
The information contained in the document prompted Cliven Bundy’s defense team to file a motion early Monday, asking U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro for a mistrial, or for the case to be dismissed altogether.
In response, Judge Navarro sent the jury home for more than a week while she sifted through the claims. As the trial reconvened Wednesday, she announced her ruling of a mistrial.
Reportedly, Cliven Bundy was released from jail Wednesday morning, following the mistrial announcement.
In a Facebook post on the Bundy Ranch page, Cliven Bundy’s wife, Carol Bundy, wrote the following:
Today our prayers were heard and the current trial against my husband, sons and other defendants was declared a mistrial. We wanted a dismissal but are grateful that the truth is getting out. We are a step closer to freedom.
Although the case is not over and there will continue to be lots of legal back and forth I needed to thank you, on behalf of our entire family for your prayers and support.
You stood with my family when it would have been easier to look the other way. You shared our message so the media eventually had to begin covering the truth.
It’s been almost two years since my husband has been home, had a home cooked meal and was able to wear his cowboy hat. I’m hopeful that soon we’ll be able to enjoy those simple things that so many times we simply took for granted.
I consider you family.
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