Opening statements are scheduled for Thursday in the conspiracy trial against six men accused of participating in an armed standoff against federal law enforcement agents who tried to impound rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle.
Prosecutors characterize the six men as the “least culpable” among 17 co-conspirators facing trial on extortion, assault and other charges resulting from the 2014 confrontation between anti-government protesters and Bureau of Land Management agents near Bundy’s ranch in Bunkerville.
Though they all face the same charges in the 15-count indictment, the remaining defendants will be tried in two subsequent trials. Bundy and several of his sons are in the second trial group.
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro ordered jurors not to discuss the case with anyone and not to “listen to or view anything touching on this case in any way.”
“I promise you by the time you’re done, you’re going to know more than anyone about this case,” she told jurors, whose careers range from stay-at-home mom to Southwest Airlines employee.
Some of the jurors seated in the case have friends or relatives in law enforcement. One expressed during jury selection her belief that government agents should be held to a higher standard than the general public.
The trial is expected to last 10 weeks. It is being held in the largest courtroom on the seventh floor of the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse in Las Vegas. Court officials have increased security procedures in and around the courthouse for the duration of the trial because of the high-profile nature of the case.
Bundy, who maintains that the Clark County sheriff has authority over the federal lands where his cattle were grazing, has become a symbol for an anti-federal government movement, and protesters who support that movement have had a presence outside federal court all week.
Richard Lovelin, Gregory Burleson, Eric Parker, Scott Drexler, Todd Engel and Steven Stewart are standing trial in the first group. None of them lives in Nevada, but they are accused of being the “gunmen” in the standoff after they drove from out-of-state to join the protests Bundy led in April 2014.
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