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With Mistrial Declared in First Bundy Trial, Federal Land Policies Remain the Real Issue


Stop the Presses News & Commentary

LAS VEGAS, Nev.— The land policies of the federal government, which commandeers about 640 million acres nationwide (28% of the 2.27 billion acres of the overall U.S.), do indeed call into question the very nature of such massive land control. The concentration of federal land ownership in the American West is especially staggering, with over 80% of Nevada falling under federal jurisdiction.

Behind the façade of the prosecution’s rather tedious, misleading courtroom arguments, that’s the real issue in the first trial and the two other upcoming trials of the landmark Cliven Bundy property-rights case. On April 24, the jury deadlocked as the first trial drew to a close.

That opening trial started Feb. 6 and dragged on longer than expected—concerning a case in which federal land jurisdiction and control are the bedrock issues. But such issues have been buried under loads of lurid legal scenarios from the prosecution, which evidently seeks to paint all the defendants as “far-right” armed insurrectionists who allegedly would overturn government land mismanagement at gunpoint if necessary.


Due to the hung jury, the opening trial was declared a mistrial and four of the six defendants “were nether acquitted nor convicted” of any of the serious “conspiracy” charges or other charges leveled at them by the federal government, according to Roger Roots, an author and legal expert who attended virtually every day of the opening trial.

Those four are: Richard Lovelien, Eric Parker, O. Scott Drexler, and Steven Stewart.

The 12-member jury didn’t come close to convicting these men, voting 10-2 in favor of acquitting two of them, while splitting on the others, according to defense lawyers.

The opening trial’s defendants are being tried for their part in supporting longtime rancher Cliven Bundy in the now-legendary April 2014 standoff between armed federal Bureau of Land Management agents and the elder Bundy, four of the Bundy sons, and a host of supporters.

Several supporters traveled long distances to southern Nevada, near Bunkerville, to stand with Cliven and protest federal land policies when the BLM showed up that spring to impound hundreds of Cliven’s cattle for allegedly unpaid grazing fees on public lands. The standoff was dubbed by some as “The Battle of Bunkerville,” though not a single shot was fired.

Notably, the federal indictment, which targets a total of 17 defendants, contains 16 charges, including “conspiracy” counts that carry long prison sentences, but not all the counts apply to everyone.

The overall case has been divided into three trials, in order to make things more manageable for the federal government, which has been laboring to prove that those who gathered with the elder Bundy to support him pointed their weapons at well-armed federal officers in an allegedly “threatening” manner.

The government seeks to send all the defendants to prison, for life if possible. The defense, however, maintains that Cliven’s supporters showed up to exercise their First and Second Amendment rights simply to protest BLM land policies.

“Maybe you can’t call this [deadlocked jury] a victory for the Bundy side,” added Roots, offering his assessment. “But the government’s ‘stock’ went down in this thing. And the feds, including the judge, are under a lot of pressure to try and provide speedy trials. You have to remember that this first group [of so-called “less culpable” defendants] was supposed to be the ‘easy’ one for the government.”


As for the deadlocked jury, Roots, as of April 25, wasn’t altogether certain whether the government would actually re-try the four defendants. That day’s Arizona Republic claimed Judge Gloria Navarro was intent on re-trying the four, probably starting on June 26—which happens to be the anticipated starting date for the second trial.

“There’s no way that [schedule] is going to work,” Roots remarked to The TRUTH HOUND at the time, while noting that the court’s docket lists June 26 as the opening date for the second trial. The second trial’s defendants are Cliven Bundy, sons Ryan and Ammon Bundy, along with Ryan Payne and internet radio host Pete Santilli. It’s expected to be an exceedingly high-profile affair, yet a fair and speedy trial, one of the supposed glories of the U.S. court system, is appearing more and more unlikely with each passing day.

That’s because an official in the Las Vegas Federal Court’s docket department confirmed Thursday, April 26, as this story was updated, that June 26 is indeed the date set by the court for re-trying the four defendants about whom the jury deadlocked. 

That means the second trial is being delayed for a third time, first having been planned for around June 6, then June 26, and now into July or later. And recall that the defendants in the second Nevada trial were never released from jail since their involvement (all but Cliven) in the Oregon property-rights protest that came to head in early 2016—even though the federal government was unable to convict them after a trial in Portland.


However, the jury did find the two others in the opening trial—Todd Engel and Gregory Burleson—guilty of some charges, with Burleson bearing the brunt.

Engel was charged with obstruction of justice and using interstate commerce to commit extortion—so, he could perhaps get two years in prison. And any credit he may get for time already served behind bars in Nevada would reduce his sentence, perhaps drastically.

The jury found Burleson guilty of assaulting federal officers, using a firearm to assault federal officers, threatening federal officers, using a firearm to threaten federal officers, obstruction of justice, interfering with interstate commerce by extortion (and using a firearm in that interference/extortion charge), as Roots recounted. However, Burleson was spared any of the heavyweight conspiracy charges.

The third and final trial is expected sometime in the fall, involving Cliven’s sons Mel and Dave Bundy, along with Joseph O’Shaughnessy, Brian Cavalier, Jason Woods, and Micah McGuire.

READ MORE NWO NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Bundy Ranch Files