Federal prosecutors handing the Bundy case seem a bit off their game.
First, the Review-Journal’s Jeff German reported last month that government lawyers appeared surprised when most of the 19 defendants now facing trial for their role in the 2014 Bunkerville confrontation indicated they had no interest in delaying the process.
Many criminal defendants routinely waive their right to a speedy trial in hopes of giving their counsel more time to prepare an adequate defense. But the Bundy defendants have made a show of wrapping themselves in the U.S. Constitution. It shouldn’t have surprised prosecutors, then, that the accused would seek to exercise their Sixth Amendment rights as a means of putting the government at a disadvantage.
Second, federal prosecutors continue to move forward with their attempt to withhold evidence pertaining to the case from the media and public. They have asked a judge to prevent defense attorneys from releasing various documents — sworn search affidavits and investigative reports, for instance — detailing government activity in this matter, citing the need to protect the safety of witnesses.
This is preposterous. Prosecutors have failed to produce any evidence that honoring the public’s right to know will in any way endanger anyone. In addition, the Bunkerville standoff — which occurred after the BLM tried to round-up rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle in a dispute over federal land and grazing rights — generated international attention and interest. To now propose that the press and public be precluded from analyzing and assessing certain aspects of the government’s role in this controversy is an affront to both transparency and the Bill of Rights.
“The public’s First Amendment right to observe and understand the investigation in this case deserves greater respect than this proposed protective order provides,” Review-Journal lawyer Maggie McLetchie wrote in court papers filed last week opposing the push to suppress evidence. The Review-Journal was joined by Battle Born Media, which publishes several rural Nevada newspapers.
In fact, the prosecution’s move smacks of desperation and cover-up. What is there to hide? A judicial system that condones secrecy in any but the most limited and extraordinary circumstances tramples the public trust and abrogates its sacred duty to dispense justice in favor of subverting it.
The Bundy prosecutors should back off their effort to conceal information related to these high-profile proceedings. And if they don’t, U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen should waste little time denying this misguided request.