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Judge lets Review-Journal, other media fight secrecy in Bundy case

A federal judge Friday allowed the Las Vegas Review-Journal and other media to formally oppose a government push to withhold evidence from the public in the criminal case stemming from the Bunkerville standoff.

“The court finds that allowing intervention will promote transparency and the integrity of the judicial proceedings in this case,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen said in her order.

Attorney Maggie McLetchiewho represents the Review-Journal, Battle Born Media and The Associated Press — hailed the judge’s six-page decision in the case against Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy and 18 other defendants.

“We are very pleased that our concerns with the protective order will be considered by the court, and agree that transparency is especially important due to the nature of the Bundy case,” McLetchie said. “Allowing the media to be heard on a protective order that could operate as a gag order will promote transparency and trust in the judicial system.”

Leen has not yet indicated whether she will hold a hearing on the protective order.

But McLetchie filed a 17-page memorandum laying out the media’s concerns about the “overbroad and unsupported” government proposal to keep the evidence secret.

Prosecutors, who opposed the media’s request to intervene, contend a protective order is needed to ensure the safety of witnesses. A recent death threat against prosecutors also justifies the secrecy, they said.

In earlier court papers, prosecutors cited examples of anti-government “cyber bullying” by defendants charged in the April 2014 armed confrontation involving Bundy, his followers and law enforcement.

Leen issued an interim order in May maintaining the confidentiality of the evidence, as prosecutors met a court-imposed deadline to begin turning over documents to the defense.

Prosecutors want to prohibit defense lawyers from making public copies of critical trial evidence, including sworn search warrant affidavits and FBI investigative reports.

Lawyers for most of the 19 defendants, including Bundy and his four sons, also oppose the government’s proposed protective order.

All 19 defendants, who are in federal custody, are charged with conspiring to assault BLM agents on April 12, 2014, and take back impounded Bundy cattle that had been grazing on federal land.

A Feb. 6 trial date has been set in the high-profile case.

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

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