weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Mistrial declared in Bundy trial over withheld evidence

Updated December 20, 2017 - 5:46 pm

A judge declared a mistrial Wednesday in the Bunkerville standoff case involving rancher Cliven Bundy and other defendants, finding that the federal government improperly withheld evidence.

“A mistrial in this case is the most suitable and only remedy available,” U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro said.

Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan, and co-defendant Ryan Payne will face a new trial early next year on charges arising from the 2014 standoff with federal agents.

Navarro said video surveillance, maps and FBI interview information were willfully withheld by the prosecution in violation of due process required by the U.S. Constitution.

Considered collectively, she said, the evidence that was withheld was favorable to the defendants, and its untimely disclosure was prejudicial in that it “undermined the confidence of the outcome of the trial.”

“The Attorney General takes this issue very seriously,” Department of Justice spokesman Ian Prior wrote in an email after the ruling.

According to the statement, a discovery expert with the department will examine the case and advise the agency on its next steps.

Steven Myhre, Nevada’s acting U.S. attorney and the lead prosecutor on the Bundy case, issued the following statement:

“We respect the ruling of the Court and take very seriously our discovery obligations. The Office welcomes the assistance of the Attorney General as we continue to evaluate the case in light of the Court’s ruling.”

The suppressed evidence

In her ruling, Navarro cited case law that says illegal suppression of evidence occurs when the government fails to turn over information that was available not only to the prosecution, but to federal investigative agencies.

She said information and reports obtained and created by the FBI were available to prosecutors and should have been made available to the defense.

Included in the pieces of evidence that led to the mistrial were interview reports regarding video surveillance of the Bundys, including information about the camera’s location and proximity to the Bundys’ home, and an interview report indicating a BLM officer wore tactical gear during the standoff.

Navarro said this information might have been used by the defense to counter government claims that the placement of the camera on Bundy property was incidental to their operations and not intentionally aimed at surveilling the family’s conduct, as well as claims that the government did not use snipers in the standoff and that no BLM snipers existed.

Interview reports about the surveillance were made available just 30 days before the start of the trial, and the FBI report about the tactical gear was created in March 2015 but was not disclosed to the defendants until Nov. 7 of this year, the judge said.

She said the government also failed to disclose an FBI threat assessment from 2012 that discussed the nonviolent nature of Cliven Bundy, which could have been used to undermine government claims that the Bundys posed a threat during the standoff and to bolster the defendants’ claims that the government acted unreasonably.

Since the start of trial in late October, the defense has received 3,300 pages of discovery that was produced past deadline.

Had the evidence been provided in a timely manner, Navarro said, defense attorneys would have asked different questions of the jury, selected jurors differently and made stronger arguments during their opening statements.

Navarro said she wanted to be clear that her order did not mean that the evidence was in fact exculpatory or that the defendants were not guilty.

“That’s not my technical position, and it’s not a factual decision to be made by this court,” she said. “The defense has a right to information so it can provide it to the jury so the jury can decide.”

The new trial, which must begin 70 days after an ordered mistrial, is set to begin Feb. 26.

‘Beginning of the end’

After Navarro’s ruling, Ryan Bundy stood and requested amended release conditions for himself and his fellow defendants in light of the mistrial. Navarro said he would have to make his request to the pretrial office at a later time.

Moments after the ruling, a livestock semitrailer with “Ladybug Ranch” plastered on the back drove past the courthouse, blaring its horn.

Ammon Bundy said after the mistrial that he had mixed feelings about Navarro’s decision.

“It means we lost that jury, and we’re very sad about that,” he said outside the courthouse. “I was very convinced that that jury would acquit us.

But, Ammon Bundy said, the judge had to do something.

“She clearly laid out the egregious actions of the government,” he said. “And ‘willfully’ means they did it on purpose. … We’ve been saying that for two years.”

Ryan Bundy, who is representing himself, said he hopes the mistrial will change public opinion of the case in favor of his family.

“Hopefully they will see now that we weren’t lying, that the government is the perpetrator here,” he said. “The government is the criminal here, not us.”

Cliven Bundy was not released Wednesday, but his attorney said his next goal is to make sure that the mistrial is declared “with prejudice,” which would prevent the government from bringing the case a second time. Navarro has scheduled a hearing for Jan. 8.

“It’s the beginning of the end,” attorney Bret Whipple said of the mistrial. “Honestly, I think on Jan. 8, the evidence is there to support the showing of prejudice, and this will be the end of the Bundy trial.”

Contact Kimber Laux at klaux@reviewjournal.com. Follow @lauxkimber on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Crime Videos
CCSD police on the arrest of Deamonte Warren - VIDEO
CCSD police arrested Chaparral High School custodian Deamonte Warren on Friday on three counts of a school employee having sex with a student and an additional count of providing alcohol to a minor. (Courtesy CCSD Police)
Woman charged with sex trafficking an 11-year-old girl on the Strip (Michael Quine)
Gigi Mitchell faces seven felony charges including sex trafficking and child abuse for bringing an 11-year-old girl to the Las Vegas Strip to work as a prostitute.
Bel Air Drive Officer Involved Shooting Presser - Video
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly goes over the officer-involved shooting on Bel Air Drive.
Former Las Vegas police officer get 25 life sentences for sexually abusing child
Former Las Vegas Police officer Bret Theil was sentences to 25 consecutive life sentences at the Regional Justice Center Wednesday, May 15, 2019, for sexually abusing a child over a decade. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Man pushed off bus in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Las Vegas police arrested 25-year-old Cadesha Bishop on May 6, after she allegedly pushed Serge Fournier, 74, off of a parked bus near Fremont Street and 13th Street about 4:50 p.m. March 21.(Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
$1 million bail set for mother charged with drowning 2-year-old daughter
The 44-year-old mother who police say drowned her 2-year-old daughter in a bathtub in a northeast Las Vegas apartment on Saturday made her first court appearance on Tuesday, May 14th.
Officer arrested on suspicion of lewdness with a child appears in court
Matthew James Terry, a Las Vegas police officer arrested on suspicion of lewdness with a child, appears in court Monday morning, May 13, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police seek hit-and-run driver
A motorcycle officer pulled over a Mercedes SUV, and after the officer came to a stop, it shifted into reverse, intentionally hitting the officer.
Thedrick Andres becomes Henderson Police Department acting chief
Henderson Police Department Acting Chief Thedrick Andres speaks about his goals in his new position at the Henderson Police headquarters, Monday, April 29, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2 dead, 1 wounded after east valley neighborhood shooting
One man and one woman are dead and another man wounded after a shooting Thursday afternoon in an east valley neighborhood.
Bail denied for former police detective charged with murder
Bail was denied Tuesday for former Metropolitan Police Department detective, Pamela Rene Bordeaux who is accused of fatally shooting her daughter’s ex-husband during supervised visitation with his child.
Third suspect in death of California doctor appears in court
The third and final suspect in the killing of a California doctor, Jon Kennison, 27, appears in court Friday, April 19, 2019. Kennison, Kelsey Nichole Turner, a former model, and Diana Pena, face charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Richard Cleaves of Pahrump arrested in burglary on former Binion property
Updated press release regarding burglary on a former Binion property: Richard Cleaves, 56 of Pahrump, has been arrested on a warrant for burglary, conspiracy to commit grand larceny, and destruction of property. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Judge denies bail for suspect charged in the killing of California doctor
Diana Pena, one of three people charged in the killing of a California doctor, is being held without bail after her fingerprints were found on the car where Dr. Thomas Burchard's body was discovered.
Ex-NFL player and girlfriend held without bail in child’s death
Former professional football player Cierre Wood and his girlfriend, Amy Taylor, face charges of murder and child abuse in the death of Taylor's 5-year-old daughter. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NHP identifies man who was shot by trooper on Mount Charleston
Nevada Highway Patrol updates the media on the April 2, 2019 officer involved shooting on Mount Charleston. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas court grants '90 Day Fiancé' defendant continuance
"90 Day Fiance" stars Colt Johnson and his mother Debra left the Las Vegas Justice Center Thursday, after the court granted Larissa dos Santos Lima a continuance in her misdemeanor case, in which she is accused of domestic violence against Colt. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Details released on in-custody death
Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank addresses media about details of an in-custody death at Clark County Detention Center on March 31. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Man hurt in shooting with Nevada troopers at Mount Charleston
A man was injured in a shooting involving Nevada Highway Patrol troopers Tuesday afternoon at Mount Charleston on state Route 157 near Echo Trail. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Officer wounds inmate during escape attempt
An officer fired on an inmate who stole a vehicle and tried to flee, ramming several cars and leading officers on a chase until he ran out of gas.
Man fatally shot during a 'beer skip'
A store clerk is being questioned after a man was fatally shot during a robbery at a gas station Friday. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Las Vegas police give details on fatal shooting
Metro homicide Lt. Ray Spencer gives a briefing on a fatal shooting near downtown Las Vegas that occurred on March 27, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas community pays tribute to boy killed by car
The community joined friends and family at Wilbur & Theresa Faiss Park, Wednesday evening, to remember the boy who was struck and killed by a car crossing South Fort Apache Road from Faiss Park, near West Maule Avenue, on Monday. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Person of Interest Found For Downtown Las Vegas Bar - Video
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is seeking help to find a person of interest in a potential homicide case at a bar in downtown Las Vegas.
Metro briefs media on OIS near downtown Las Vegas
Police address media about officer-involved shooting that started on Maryland and Vegas Valley, and concluded downtown, near the Golden Nugget.
Update on OIS at Vegas Valley and Maryland
The incident began at the Steinberg Diagnostic Medical parking lot and ended downtown.
Amy And Spencer Powell Recount Hit And Run
Amy Powell and her son Spencer recount the day Spencer was hit by a truck while riding his bike. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jeremy Burch of Tonopah arrested in Amarillo, TX
Jeremy Burch of Tonopah was arrested in Amarillo, TX on a Nye County warrant for open murder, burglary, obtaining money under false pretense, use of credit card w/o owner consent, and destruction of evidence. (Nye County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)
Metro Presser For OIS 6 (Full)
Metro police address the officer involved shooting that took place on March 19, 2019.
Metro Presser For OIS 6
Metro police address the officer involved shooting that took place on March 19, 2019.
Domestic disturbance call ends in suicide
A man died by suicide after police tried negotiating with him outside of his ex-girlfriend’s home on March 13. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
20-year-old armed robbery suspect shot by Las Vegas police
A 20-year-old armed robbery suspect shot by a Las Vegas officer on Saturday night is also accused of burglarizing a Boys & Girls Club minutes before the shooting.
Commercial Robbery On 3000 Block Of North Las Vegas Blvd - VIDEO
On February 19th, 2019, at approximately 10:23 am, a robbery occurred to a business located on the 3000 block of North Las Vegas Boulevard. The pictured suspect entered the business, approached the counter and pointed a firearm at the victim demanding money. The victim complied and the suspect fled with an undisclosed amount of money. No injuries were reported.
DEA Launches New Program To Combat Opioid Epidemic
The Drug Enforcement Administration is launching a new effort in Nevada to combat the opioid epidemic.
FBI agents investigated for ‘lack of candor’ in Oregon standoff case

A new court filing says FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita and several colleagues on the bureau’s elite Hostage Rescue Team are under investigation for alleged “lack of candor” in their statements after the shooting of refuge occupation leader Robert “LaVoy” Finicum.