Congress expected to hold hearings on dismissal of Bundy case

WASHINGTON — GOP lawmakers, the Trump administration and Democrats were sharply divided over public land use and a Nevada standoff between federal law enforcement and a militia led by Cliven Bundy before he was freed from jail.

A federal judge’s decision last week to dismiss conspiracy and assault charges against Nevada rancher Bundy because of misconduct by prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office hardened those positions and moved the battle to Congress.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Republicans have accused the Obama administration of mishandling the 2014 standoff between Bureau of Land Management officials and a large group of militia that prevented them from rounding up Bundy’s cattle illegally grazing on what is now Gold Butte National Monument.

Although the court case against Bundy was dismissed because prosecutors withheld evidence, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has ordered the acting director of the BLM, Brian Steed, to deliver a report on the incident by Jan. 24.

It is expected that a congressional hearing will follow.

“The failures in the Bundy case and previous cases display serious misconduct by BLM law enforcement officials, and strongly suggest that there are systemic issues within BLM’s law enforcement operations,” Bishop said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., the ranking Democrat on the committee, has ordered a Government Accountability Office study on the scale of recent threats and attacks against BLM officials and property. The study is underway.

Although mistakes were made by the BLM, Grijalva said, using the committee to “beat up” the agency sets a bad precedent and ignores the larger issue of illegal acts by armed men who openly threatened law enforcement officials.

Dangerous precedent

In any other context, Grijalva said, an armed occupation on federal land would be “tantamount to domestic terrorism.” The Arizona lawmaker said the implicit support of Bundy by the Trump administration and Republicans sets a dangerous precedent.

He said Republicans in the House are misguided in their laser focus on BLM mistakes over the incident that prompted the standoff in the first place: Bundy’s failure to get a permit, grazing cattle illegally on federal land and threatening violent resistance to law enforcement.

“You’ve emboldened people like Bundy and the way they think — that it’s OK to threaten federal marshals with weapons, to occupy an area, armed, and talk about violence and foment that,” Grijalva said in an interview. “The extremists are not just the Bundys, they are in Congress.”

Zinke traveled to Bunkerville, near the site of the standoff, in July as part of a listening tour about the newly created Gold Butte National Monument, which now includes land where the tense standoff played out.

Asked then if the Interior Department would round up Bundy’s cattle, Zinke said he would not address that issue. But Zinke expressed sympathy for ranchers as he proposed rolling back recent presidential declarations that established national monument to protect land, wildlife and artifacts

“As we look at the rancher, that’s as much a part of the culture of a lot of these monuments as some of the objects,” Zinke said.

The secretary did not comment after the judge dismissed the Bundy case. The Department of Interior referred questions about the case to the Justice Department.

But Zinke’s spokeswoman, Heather Swift, said the secretary grew up in Montana and believed a lot of rural Americans felt like the department under the Obama administration “was no longer a good neighbor.”

“One of the secretary’s top priorities when entering office was to restore trust in the federal government and be a better neighbor with states and communities in which we work and own land,” Swift said.

Protecting resources

Environmental groups, such as the Center for Biological Diversity, said the administration’s position threatens the public and fails to protect resources.

“The Trump administration is coddling violent zealots and preventing the public from feeling safe to enjoy our new national monument,” said Patrick Donnelly, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Nevada state director.

Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., said, “The Bundy situation isn’t going to go away. I think that we have to have real discussions on how people are using federal lands and how we make those public-private partnerships work for everyone.”

“How the Bundys protested may not have been appropriate,” she said, “but it’s a problem that will continue and needs to be addressed, because we do have people living on our federal lands.”

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said he was still reviewing the judge’s decision to dismiss the case against Bundy.

He said he wants to understand the decision-making role of Obama administration officials at the time, Interior Secretary Sally Jewel, BLM Director Neil Kornze and state BLM Director Amy Lueders.

If mistakes were made at the top, Amodei said, lawmakers need to know “not for the purposes of me to go off on some political Jihad, but to make sure that for the people that are there now, we can go to them in an oversight context and say, ‘We trust this will never happen again in terms of mistakes that were made.’”

Amodei is a co-sponsor of legislation that would terminate the law enforcement functions of BLM and the Forest Service and make grants available to states, based on percentage of federal land, to maintain law and order and enforce federal law.

That bill is waiting action by the House Natural Resources subcommittee on federal lands.

Amodei said that after talking with federal, state and local law enforcement after the standoff, “what was painted for me was not a picture of seamless cooperation.

“It doesn’t sound like it was a proud day for federal law enforcement in the context of BLM,” Amodei said. So from an oversight position, “we want to make sure that whatever the lessons learned — however embarrassing they may well be — that we don’t repeat those.”

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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On February 3, 2018 at approximately 1:57 p.m., patrol officers were dispatched to a parking lot located in the 3900 block of East Owens Avenue to investigate a report that a man had been shot. Responding officers located an unresponsive adult male suffering from a gunshot wound. The victim was pronounced deceased at the scene. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Las Vegas Mob Museum adds new interactive exhibits
The Las Vegas Mob Museum previews it’s recent renovation and three new attractions including Organized Crime Today, Use of Force Training Experience and a Crime Lab.
Two Suspects Arrested in Deadly West Las Vegas Shooting, Kidnapping
Officers identified a second suspect in a deadly shooting and abduction Wednesday in the west valley, police said. Jessica Tolentino-Arciga, 26, was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on Wednesday in connection with the incident, according to police. Officers previously accused Joseph L. Fernandez Jr., 27, of breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s home just before 4 a.m. He is suspected of abducting his ex-girlfriend, Mandy Hernandez, in a gray BMW sedan and shooting her friend.
Video of attempted kidnapping suspect's car
Las Vegas police are attempting to identify a suspect in 2 attempted kidnappings. The suspect's vehicle was described a red four door sedan with silver trim around the windows. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Media Briefing: OIS #3 for 2018 -- Suicidal Subject Points Gun at Officer
Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank meets with members of the media to discuss additional details about the officer involved shooting that occurred on February 6, 2018. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Metro Homicide Lt. Dan McGrath speaks about a homicide and kidnapping
Las Vegas police are investigating a homicide and kidnapping in the 3300 block of Robin Nest Court, near Desert Inn Road and Hulalapai Way. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Homeless being targeted by unknown shooter
Capt. Robert Plummer of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department briefs the media on the recent shootings of four homeless men.
Douglas Haig talks to reporters
Douglas Haig, identified as a person of interest in documents related to the Las Vegas shooting, spoke to reporters Tuesday evening outside his home in Mesa, Arizona. (Madison Miller/Las Vegas Review-Journal Correspondent)
Suspected Aria counterfeiter hurt jumping off Harmon overpass
A man who allegedly tried to use a counterfeit bill at the Aria was hospitalized after he jumped off an overpass trying to escape police. About 2 a.m. Tuesday, security at the Aria flagged down police. When police tried to talk to him, the man fled and led police on a foot chase, according to Lt. David Gordon. The chase ended at the Harmon Avenue overpass above Interstate 15, when the man jumped off the side and landed in the rocky landscaping below. The man was taken to the hospital for evaluation.
Rancho Discount Mall shooting
Las Vegas police are investigating a deadly shooting Monday morning in central Las Vegas. A man was found dead after 3 a.m. outside the Rancho Discount Mall at 2901 W. Washington Ave. The man had been shot once. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Police have blocked off the parking lot in front of the store while detectives investigate. At 5 a.m., the man’s body was still on scene, laying on the walkway near a shopping cart and a pile of blankets.
Deadly shooting on Calimesa Street
Las Vegas police are investigating a fatal shooting Monday morning on the 4200 block of Calimesa Street. An adult man was found in front of a house with multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to a hospital where he died, according to Metropolitan Police Lt. David Gordon. Homicide detectives also are investigating another deadly shooting that occurred a short time after the Calimesa Street shooting. A person was killed at 2901 W. Washington Ave.
Man shoots wife and 15-year-old stepdaughter in Las Vegas
Las Vegas teen accused of sexual deviancy in elementary school
A Las Vegas teen accused of raping 4 of his classmates had been disciplined for sexual deviancy in elementary school Maysen Melton was suspended from Bracken Elementary for allegedly sexually harassing classmates He was later disciplined for sexual deviancy at three different middle schools Melton now faces 23 felony counts for allegedly raping 4 of his classmates at Shadow Ridge High School Melton may face additional charges after another victim came forward, alleging Melton sexually abused her in October In one alleged incident, Melton pushed a girl to the floor before raping her He allegedly responded by saying, "No means yes"' and "I know you’ll like it in the end." District Judge Jennifer Togliatti pointed to an "astronomical probability of conviction" and raised Melton's bail from $200,000 to $500,000
Deadly shooting in south Las Vegas
Las Vegas police are investigating a Friday shooting that left a woman in the south valley dead. Police believe her husband shot and killed her at a house on Giles Street. The shooter as of 1:30 a.m. remained on the loose and was considered armed and dangerous. A police helicopter circled the sky looking for the suspect. Neighbors could be seen peeking through window curtains as police secured the neighborhood and warned people to stay inside.
Judge Doug Herndon confronts Bryan Clay in Las Vegas
Bryan Clay was sentenced to life in prison without parole in December for the rape and murder of a mother and her 10-year-old daughter. On Thursday, he was in court again to be sentenced for other charges, including robbery, kidnapping and sexual assault of a minor under 14 . Prosecutors told Judge Doug Herndon Thursday that Clay can be heard on his jail phone conversations saying he “tricked jurors, that he’ll be back soon, that he’ll in fact get his appeal more quickly.” Judge Doug Herndon told him the case has haunted him since “opening statements.” Briana Erickson/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas arrest warrant details Floyd Mayweather Sr. assault accusation
Las Vegas police said Floyd Mayweather Sr. dragged a woman by the leg from the backseat of his car and punched her after a boxing match on the Strip, according to court documents obtained Thursday. The father of boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. battered her hours after the Sept. 16 fight at T-Mobile Arena between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, the elder Mayweather’s arrest warrant said. The woman and her husband had attended the fight with Mayweather Sr. and his girlfriend, the Metropolitan Police Department wrote in his arrest warrant. Police said Mayweather Sr. pulled her from the car and battered her. He then drove off, leaving the woman and her husband in a parking lot. A warrant for his arrest was issued Jan. 16. Mayweather Sr. was in Clark County Detention Center Wednesday, but has since posted bond.
Las Vegas teen accused of raping classmates appears in court
A Las Vegas teen accused of raping 4 of his Shadow Ridge classmates appeared in court Thursday Maysen Melton faces 23 felony counts, including charges of sexual assault District Judge Jennifer Togliatti pointed to an "astronomical probability of conviction" and raised Melton's bail Judge Togliatti also said she worried that someone walking by Melton's house could be at risk Melton's bail was raised from $200,000 to $500,000
Las Vegas police investigate kidnapping, carjacking and robbery at Best Buy
Shortly before 6 a.m., a man was approached by two men in the parking lot of a Best Buy at 6950 Arroyo Crossing, near the 215 Beltway and South Rainbow Boulevard. Police said at least one of the two suspects was armed with a handgun. The suspects forced the man into his car and made him drive to an ATM, where he withdrew an unknown amount of money for the suspects, Metropolitan Police Department Lt. David Gordon said. The two men then instructed the victim to drive to a convenience store at 4030 W. Charleston Blvd., where they told him to get out of his vehicle. Police said the suspects fled north on Hinson Street in the man’s car.
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