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Federal judge refuses to get off Bundy case

Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro said Wednesday she will not remove herself from the criminal case stemming from the 2014 armed standoff with law enforcement near Bunkerville.

Lawyers for Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, one of 19 defendants charged in the alleged conspiracy to assault federal officers, had sought her disqualification on several grounds, including a claim that she is part of a conspiracy with President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., to deny Bundy a fair trial.

In a six-page order detailing her decision to stay on the case, Navarro said the government “aptly explains” in court papers why the defense conspiracy theory “displays a lack of respect and/or complete ignorance of the independent role of the judiciary.”

She said the “spurious allegations raise very serious concerns” about whether Bundy is being represented effectively in the complex criminal case.

Federal prosecutors argued that the Bundy defense team offered no proof of bias by Navarro against Bundy, but rather a “mishmash of inferences drawn from speculation and innuendo.”

Navarro on Wednesday also denied another request by Bundy to be released from federal custody.

She said from the bench that Bundy was a serious risk of flight and a danger to the community and that there were no conditions she could set that would guarantee his presence at future court dates.

Afterward, one of Bundy’s lawyers, Larry Klayman, called Navarro’s actions an “outrageous miscarriage of justice” and said they would be appealed.

“This is one of the most egregious displays of misconduct I’ve seen in my 40 years as a lawyer,” Klayman said. “Her order openly seeks to protect Harry Reid.”

Earlier this month, Bundy’s lead lawyer, Joel Hansen, sued Navarro, Obama, Reid and one of Reid’s sons in a separate bid to remove the judge from the case. Reid’s communications director, Kristen Orthman, was added as a defendant on Tuesday.

The lawsuit cites the conspiracy theory involving Obama and Reid and several other reasons to oust Navarro, including her refusal to allow the nationally known Klayman to appear in court on Bundy’s behalf.

Prosecutors contended there was no merit to the claim that Obama and Reid were “surreptitiously signaling” to Navarro their wishes for the outcome of the Bundy case. Obama appointed Navarro to the bench at Reid’s recommendation.

Navarro’s concerns about Bundy’s defense team, meanwhile, prompted the lawyer for co-defendant Peter Santilli to voice worries of his own.

Attorney Chris Rasmussen, who wants a separate trial for Santilli, wrote in court papers Wednesday that Hansen’s aggressive strategy of attacking Navarro and her husband, a prosecutor in the Clark County district attorney’s office, has caused problems for Santilli’s defense.

Rasmussen argued that his client will be “severely prejudiced” if Hansen’s “behavior is displayed before a jury.”

Hansen responded by saying, “Each of the defense attorneys has a responsibility to aggressively represent his or her own client, and I don’t have any problem with Chris Rasmussen representing his client as he sees fit.“

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

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