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BLM agent tells Las Vegas jury that Bundy supporters posed threat

Updated February 14, 2017 - 6:20 pm

Supporters of Cliven Bundy posed a significant threat to federal authorities who tried to impound the rancher’s cattle, a Bureau of Land Management agent testified Tuesday in the trial of six men charged in the 2014 armed standoff in Bunkerville.

“In my opinion, their emotions were high, and they were using strong language to challenge our authority,” BLM special agent Rand Stover testified.

The agent was answering a question about the threat of violence in the hours leading up to the standoff.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre on Tuesday drew hours of testimony from Stover about the menacing nature of Bundy’s supporters. Myhre asked him about specific details, such as the presence of a gas mask attached to one protester’s belt, in an effort to convince the jury that law enforcement officers felt threatened and feared for their lives.

The six men on trial are accused of conspiring with Bundy to block the BLM from seizing the cattle from a federal grazing allotment near Bundy’s ranch in Bunkerville.

Defense lawyers portrayed the interactions between protesters and the government in a different light when it was their turn to cross-examine Stover on Tuesday.

In questioning the witness, they played videos to support their claims that law enforcement authorities were the aggressors against a peaceful group of protesters exercising their constitutional rights. One of the videos depicted law enforcement officers using a stun gun and a police dog in detaining one of Bundy’s sons several days before the standoff.

Defense attorney Todd Leventhal, who represents O. Scott Drexler, grilled Stover with a pointed line of questioning in an apparent attempt to reveal misconduct by the witness’ supervisor, special agent in charge Dan Love, who oversaw the impoundment operation at Bundy’s ranch in 2014.

Previous court filings have revealed that defense attorneys suspect him to be the same person who was accused of misconduct in a recent report from the Office of the Inspector General. The report slammed an unnamed BLM agent for bullying his subordinates and for using his position to obtain sold-out Burning Man tickets.

Leventhal recently obtained an unredacted version of the investigative report and said this week that it references up to six government witnesses who are involved in the Bunkerville case. The defense attorney’s cross-examination Tuesday suggested that Stover was one of them.

“If you ever saw SAC Dan Love do something illegal, would you file a complaint?”

“Yes,” Stover said.

“If you ever saw SAC Love do something unethical, would you file an internal complaint?”

A long pause followed. Stover bowed his head and nodded slowly.

“I’d like to think that I would,” he said.

“It’s a yes or a no,” the attorney said.

“Well, I had other problems,” Stover said.

After prosecutors objected, U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro did not allow the witness to elaborate.

The redacted version of the report included allegations that the unnamed agent intimidated employees who may have reported his wrongdoing. Some employees said they did not come forward with allegations sooner for fear of retaliation.

Contact Jenny Wilson at jenwilson@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Follow @jennydwilson on Twitter.

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