103°F
weather icon Clear

Prosecutors want all Bundy defendants tried together in Bunkerville standoff case

Federal prosecutors oppose separate trials for Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, his four sons and 10 other defendants charged in the 2014 armed Bunkerville standoff.

In court papers filed late Friday, prosecutors said none of the 15 defendants made a legitimate showing that their defenses will be compromised if they are tried together in the alleged conspiracy to assault federal law enforcement officers a few miles from the Bundy ranch.

The assault occurred April 12, 2014, while Bureau of Land Management agents were executing federal court orders to impound Bundy cattle that were being grazed illegally on government land, prosecutors alleged.

A total of 19 defendants are to stand trial Feb. 6 on an array of felonies, including conspiracy, extortion, obstruction of justice and assault.

Most of the defendants, including the Bundy patriarch, have filed court papers seeking separate trials, arguing a large group trial would violate their constitutional rights and deny them a fair shake before a jury. Three of the Bundy brothers — Ammon, Ryan and Mel — want to be tried with their other brother Dave.

Several of the defendants argued that the government wants everyone tried together so it can convict them all by “guilt by association.”

But prosecutors countered that the sweeping conspiracy charge makes this is a “classic case” for trying the 19 defendants together.

“Specifically, joint trials provide the jury an ability to see into the entire picture of an alleged crime and enable jury members to reach a more reliable conclusion as to the guilt or innocence of the defendants involved, and thus more fairly assign corresponding responsibilities of each defendant,” prosecutors wrote.

“Moreover, joint trials limit the burden of requiring witnesses or victims to testify on multiple occasions in separate trials and promote economy and efficiency in the judicial system.”

Prosecutors allege Cliven Bundy was the leader of the conspiracy and his sons were part of the leadership group.

The elder Bundy was not on the scene of the armed confrontation near Bunkerville, but he gave the orders to take back his cattle, according to prosecutors.

Ammon and Ryan Bundy led the massive assault on the federal officers — with Ammon out front demanding the officers leave the impoundment site and Ryan ordering the release of the cattle after the outnumbered officers “capitulated to Ammon Bundy’s extortionate demands,” prosecutors wrote in their court papers.

Several other defendants have been charged as “mid-level organizers” and still others as gunmen, prosecutors said.

Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro, who is presiding over the case, will have the final decision on whether all of the defendants will be tried together.

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

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
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.