Jurors are expected to hear opening statements early next week from lawyers representing the lead defendants in a 2014 standoff with federal agents, including rancher Cliven Bundy and two of his sons.
“These guys have been trying to tell their story for two years,” attorney Dan Hill, who represents Ammon Bundy, said of argument and testimony scheduled to start Tuesday. “So we’re excited to put it out there for them. And I think a lot of people will be surprised to hear the full story — the extent of the government’s conduct and the history and background of the Bundys’ protest.”
Another of the lifelong rancher’s sons, Ryan Bundy, who is representing himself during the trial, elicited testimony Friday from a former National Park Service ranger about video surveillance of the Bundy home that had not previously been disclosed.
Bret Whipple, attorney for the elder Bundy, a 71-year-old patriarch of a family with roots in the southeastern Nevada desert as old as the state, argued that prosecutors have acted in “bad faith” by not revealing that the surveillance existed and asked for the case to be dismissed.
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro did not make a decision regarding the video. She denied a separate motion from lawyers representing independent Montana militia member Ryan Payne to throw out the case based on documents agents shredded during the April occupation of the Bunkerville ranch, saying there was no evidence that information on the papers would have benefited the defendants.
Rather than wear dress clothes provided by their attorneys, Cliven Bundy and his co-defendant sons, held in federal custody without bail since early 2016 along with Payne, wore red jail jumpsuits throughout their court appearance this week, including four days of jury selection.
They face the potential of decades behind bars if convicted of conspiracy and other charges related to the armed standoff. Their trial could extend as late as February, with more than 40 witnesses expected to testify. It will be the third trial in the case.
The first two trials ended with several acquittals and a pair of convictions, leading three defendants to cut plea deals with prosecutors.
Prosecutors have alleged that the Bundys conspired with libertarian protesters to thwart the federal government’s roundup of roughly 1,000 cows from public land. The family and its supporters argue that the Bureau of Land Management should not control what happens on the property.