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Bunkerville standoff figure plays media card in bid for freedom

Pete Santilli is playing the media card in a bid to gain his release from federal custody in the criminal case stemming from the Bunkerville standoff.

In court papers this week, defense lawyer Chris Rasmussen argued that Santilli was covering the April 12, 2014, armed confrontation between the Bundy family and law enforcement as a member of the media. He hosts the Internet-based Pete Santilli show from Cincinnati on YouTube.

“The court should carefully consider the chilling effect on the media that the detention of the main journalist covering the Bundys would have on other journalists interested in these land issues,” Rasmussen wrote.

“Santilli is situated much differently than the other defendants. His role as a journalist here in Nevada and Oregon should be considered in his release. Santilli never carried a firearm, never threw a rock, never came into any type of physical confrontation with government officials.”

Federal prosecutors, however, do not share Rasmussen’s opinion.

They contend in court documents that Santilli and his web-based Guerilla Media Network are not part of the mainstream media and that his podcast espouses anti-government rhetoric and conspiracy theories.

According to prosecutors, Santilli was part of the “organizing nucleus” with Bundy family members of the armed assault on Bureau of Land Management officers two years ago in Nevada. The assault was allegedly aimed at taking back Bundy cattle that officers had rounded up on federal land.

Santilli, who is also charged in the armed takeover of a government wildlife refuge in Oregon this year, threatened officers and recruited gunmen to the site of the Bunkerville confrontation, prosecutors allege.

Santilli, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and 17 other defendants are facing an array of felony charges in Nevada, including conspiracy, extortion, obstruction and assault. All of the defendants are in custody.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Find @JGermanRJ on Twitter.

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