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Price tag for defense in Bunkerville standoff case tops $1M

Updated May 23, 2017 - 6:39 pm

Taxpayers already have spent over $1 million to provide legal representation for the 19 men accused of participating in the 2014 armed standoff in Bunkerville.

As of last week, the federal government had paid $1,028,154.30 to defense lawyers, investigators, paralegals and others who have played a role in defending those accused of staging a mass assault on federal agents who, in April 2014, tried to seize rancher Cliven Bundy’s cows from public lands.

The cattle seizure operation was met with pushback by the Bundy family and loosely organized militia groups who traveled from across the West to protest what they viewed as improper federal overreach.

In early 2016, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging 19 men with conspiracy and various other crimes for their roles in what escalated to an armed standoff.

Private defense attorneys were appointed for the majority of defendants, but some chose instead to represent themselves. Bundy is paying for a private attorney, local criminal defense lawyer Bret Whipple.

Two of the men charged in the case pleaded guilty, and the rest decided to take their cases to trial.

The costs associated with the court-appointed representation were detailed in court documents provided Friday to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The $1 million figure is likely to balloon in the coming months as federal prosecutors proceed with the three remaining trials in the high-profile case.

Initially, only three trials were scheduled. But a mistrial was declared in the first trial last month after jurors deadlocked on 50 of the 60 counts against the six defendants. Four of those men are scheduled to be retried in June, a development that is expected to significantly increase the total costs taxpayers will bear as the federal government prosecutes the biggest case in the district this year.

There were five court-appointed defense attorneys in the first trial. Collectively, they already have been paid $344,012. And it is possible that some lawyers still have not billed for all of the hours they spent working on the trial.

Meanwhile, attorneys’ fees for other defendants who either are incarcerated pending trial or who pleaded guilty have reached $365,172.90.

Over $300,000 has been paid out to “experts,” which include investigators, paralegals and others who have provided legwork and other services to the defense attorneys.

The U.S. attorney’s office declined to provide costs of prosecution thus far.

Contact Jenny Wilson at jenwilson@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Follow @jennydwilson on Twitter.

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