Earlier today (January 8th, 2017), a federal judge in Las Vegas threw out multiple felony charges against Cliven Bundy, his sons; Ammon and Ryan, and Ryan Payne due to prosecutorial misconduct during and prior to two previous trials, which had previously ended in mistrials (the first as a result of a hung jury).
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U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning that the charges cannot be refiled by prosecutors. The Bundys and Payne were all four facing felony charges of threatening a federal officer, carrying and using a firearm and engaging in conspiracy and potentially decades in prison. Those charges resulted from the “Bunkerville Standoff” against the Bureau of Land Management and other members of federal and local law enforcement back in 2014.
Judge Navarro ruled that the Federal Government had violated disclosure requirements by withholding evidence that could be beneficial to the Bundys’ defense. Under the Brady Rule, prosecutors are required to provide any such information to defendants. As a result Navarro declared that “the court finds that the universal sense of justice has been violated” and therefore a fair trial could not be conducted.
Despite the mistrial, federal prosecutors argued in a legal brief filed Dec. 29 that they didn’t willfully withhold evidence from the defense and they still planned to press ahead with another trial.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Steven Myhre wrote in his brief that the government shared 1.5 terabytes of information and noted it was “by far, the largest review and disclosure operation in this [U.S. attorney’s office] history.”
Myrhe also argued the government needed to protect some witnesses from leaks that might lead to threats, so it “culled the database with witness protection in mind.”
“Unprecedented database volume and witness concerns aside, the government never let these obstacles stand in the way of diligently working to fulfill its discovery obligations,” he wrote.
But defense lawyers for Payne — Renee Valadares, Brenda Weksler and Ryan Norwood — argued in their Dec. 29 briefing seeking to dismiss the case that government “failed to accept responsibility for any of its failure to disclose evidence” and the withholding of evidence was “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct.”
“The government’s irresponsible and, at times, false proffers to this Court as well as its dismissiveness toward the defense inspires no confidence in the prospect of fairness,” they wrote. “A dismissal is necessary to remedy the constitutional violations, to preserve the integrity of this court’s processes, and to deter future misconduct. Anything short of a dismissal is tantamount to condoning the government’s behavior in this case.”
In October 2016, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, along with five others, were all acquitted by a federal jury of charges relating to the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
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Kelly is a lifelong resident of Las Vegas, who’s been very active in local grassroots activism, as well as on a national level during his extensive travels. He’s also the founder/main contributor of Nevada Cop Block, served as editor/contributor at CopBlock.org and designed the Official Cop Block Press Passes.
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