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Rancher Cliven Bundy opposes 3 separate trials in Bunkerville standoff case

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy is opposing a proposal from federal prosecutors to split the 17 remaining defendants charged in the Bunkerville standoff case into three separate trials.

In a court document filed Wednesday, Bundy asked for all the defendants to be tried in February in one joint trial.

Bundy’s attorney, Bret Whipple, argued in the document that three separate trials would deprive the defendants of their right to a speedy trial. Whipple also argued that three trials would result in due process concerns because co-defendants will not want to testify in other trials before going to trial themselves.

If the court does not allow one joint trial, Bundy, 70, is asking that he go to trial after all the other defendants are tried in February “so as not to keep them in jail any longer than necessary.”

Bundy wants his co-defendants to be able to return to their families and jobs as soon as possible, and he is willing to wait longer if necessary, Whipple said in an interview.

Federal prosecutors filed paperwork earlier this month suggesting a tier of three trials, with the first one starting on Feb. 6 for Bundy and others alleged to be leaders: Bundy’s sons Ammon and Ryan, Peter Santilli, and Ryan Payne.

A second trial would start in May, and a third would begin in August.

The defendants face federal charges that include conspiring to assault federal agents on April 12, 2014, several miles from the Bundy ranch near Bunkerville.

Prosecutors allege the armed assault unfolded as the Bundys and their followers moved to take back Bundy cattle that had been impounded by Bureau of Land Management agents.

The impoundment happened after the BLM had obtained court orders to seize the cattle because no grazing fees had been paid to use federal public lands on which the cows roamed.

Ammon and Ryan Bundy were acquitted in October by a Portland jury in an armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon. The 41-day Oregon standoff unfolded early this year.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904. Follow @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.

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