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Bundy sues government over Bunkerville standoff prosecution

Updated October 26, 2023 - 3:42 pm

The son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy filed a lawsuit against the federal government this week, alleging that he was subject to false imprisonment and malicious prosecution in connection with the 2014 armed standoff near Bunkerville.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ryan Bundy, his wife, their six children and Ryan Payne, a Montana militia leader who the government alleged helped the Bundys in a conspiracy to assault law enforcement officers near the Bundy Ranch.

District Judge Gloria Navarro dismissed the criminal case in 2018, a decision that was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals two years later.

Cliven Bundy has been fighting the federal government for decades over grazing rights for his cattle on federal land. An armed standoff occurred in 2014 when federal agents tried to execute a court order to round up the cattle, but the encounter ended without injury after Bureau of Land Management officials called off the roundup.

Those who came to support the Bundys in 2014 included right-wing militia members within the anti-government movement, including members of the extremist Oath Keepers organization.

Ryan Bundy said in a recent phone interview that he believes federal agents intentionally tried to provoke his family and wanted to harm them. “The government in their corruption, they prosecuted us wrongfully,” he said. “They used lies and manipulations, they used false witness and they hid testimony. They hid evidence.”

The case was dismissed after the judge found that prosecutors improperly withheld evidence including video surveillance, maps and FBI interview information.

Attorney Bret Whipple, who filed Ryan Bundy’s lawsuit and previously represented Cliven Bundy during trial, declined to comment on the case.

Ryan Bundy’s lawsuit includes multiple references to a 2017 memo sent to the U.S. Department of Justice by a BLM investigator, which claimed that the investigation into the standoff was marred with misconduct that could have been considered exculpatory evidence.

The memo and Ryan Bundy’s lawsuit claimed that BLM officers referred to the Bundys in profane and sexually inappropriate terms, and bragged about roughing up Dave Bundy, another one of Cliven Bundy’s sons.

The lawsuit also claimed they were subject to “stereotyping and subsequent prosecution” because they are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

“The government employees’ unlawful arrest, detainment and incarceration of the Plaintiffs also precluded them from freely practicing their faith and attending weekly family worship services/ other church events,” the lawsuit said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada declined to comment on the lawsuit. A spokeswoman for the FBI’s Las Vegas field office declined to comment.

Two more of Cliven Bundy’s sons, Mel and Dave Bundy, are parties in a similar lawsuit against the federal government filed in February 2020 that is still being litigated, court records show.

The Bundys continue to allow their cattle to graze on land in the Gold Butte National Monument, which is comprised of 300,000 acres of desert sacred to the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians and the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe.

“We’re not going to remove our cattle, we’re going to ranch into perpetuity, till the end of time,” Ryan Bundy told the Review-Journal on Wednesday.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com.

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