The third trial of Cliven Bundy has ended in a mistrial. The prosecution failed to turn over documents that would have helped the defense.
Two earlier trials ended in hung juries. On January 8th, a judge will decide if the case will be dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning that it cannot be once again brought to trial.
This all started two years ago when Cliven Bundy asserted his rights to graze his cattle on federal land based on inherited water rights. For two decades he refused to pay fees to the Bureau of Land Management. This culminated in them seizing and killing some of his cattle before BLM and other federal agents were forced into a standoff with armed supporters protecting the ranch.
Now even the New York Times reports a shift in attitude among observers of the case:
The mistrial and allegations of government misconduct will likely energize ranchers and others in the West who have long argued against what they perceive as federal overreach. Ian Bartrum, a law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who is closely following the trial, said recent events had drastically shifted the way legal observers saw the case.
“The narrative has changed,” he said. “It went from ‘bad Bundys, clear lawbreakers’ to ‘shady government and maybe they are persecuting these guys.’”
“There’s already a lot of people that distrust the government,” he added. “Maybe more mainstream people will start to mistrust what the government is doing.”
It is beginning to look like this is yet another case of government harassment. The prosecution is supposed to turn over all evidence that might help the defense, yet they failed to do so.
A memo from a BLM investigator became public on December 15th, exposing the vast misconduct.
The memo comes from Larry Wooten, who had been the lead case agent and investigator for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management after the tense confrontation outside the patriarch’s ranch near Bunkerville. Wooten also testified before a federal grand jury that returned indictments against the Bundys. He said he was removed from the investigation last February after he complained to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada.
Then last month he sent a whistleblower email to the U.S. Department of Justice, alleging a “widespread pattern of bad judgment, lack of discipline, incredible bias, unprofessionalism and misconduct, as well as likely policy, ethical and legal violations among senior and supervisory staff” at the Bureau of Land Management’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security.
Wooten wrote that supervisory agents with the bureau repeatedly mocked the defendants in an “amateurish carnival atmosphere” that resembled something out of middle school, displayed “clear prejudice” against the Bundys, their supporters and Mormons, and prominently displayed degrading altered booking photos of Cliven Bundy and other defendants in a federal office and in an office presentation.
The memo described “heavy handedness” by government officers as they prepared to impound Cliven Bundy’s cattle. He said some officers “bragged about roughing up Dave Bundy, grinding his face into the ground and Dave Bundy having little bits of gravel stuck in his face.” Dave Bundy, one of Cliven Bundy’s sons, was arrested April 6, 2014, while videotaping men he suspected were federal agents near his father’s ranch…
Wooten accused Dan Love, the former special agent-in-charge of the cattle roundup for the Bureau of Land Management, of intentionally ignoring direction from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and his superiors “in order to command the most intrusive, oppressive, large scale and militaristic trespass cattle impound possible.” He described Love as immune from discipline, though Love eventually was fired from the bureau for misconduct in an unrelated case.
Wooten said he learned from other agency supervisors that Love had a “Kill Book” as a “trophy,” in which he essentially bragged about “getting three individuals in Utah to commit suicide,” following a joint FBI-BLM investigation into the alleged trafficking of stolen artifacts.
After reporting the findings of his investigation, Wooten was taken off the case, and his files were confiscated. In the memo, Wooten asserts that he was removed from the case in order to prevent further embarrassment to the BLM for their severe misconduct.
Wooten also said that he tried and failed to resolve his numerous issues through the chain of command. Finally, he sent the memo to an associate deputy U.S. attorney general who took action.
The information revealed in the memo is disconcerting far beyond the scope of this particular case. It pulls back the veil on an agency which has no regard for the rule of law, or standard legal procedures. They attempted to turn the case into a kangaroo court to “hang” Bundy based on anger that their authority was challenged.
Yes, hopefully, the case gets dismissed for good. And hopefully, that emboldens other people to stand up for their rights against abusive government agencies.
But even more than that, let’s hope this wakes some people up to the standard operating procedure of the federal government. Their tactics are to bully and harass opposition into submission, regardless of right or wrong.
A good place to start would be deleting the entire BLM agency, which would save taxpayers $1.1 billion per year. The land they manage should be sold to states or private entities in order to start chipping away the $20 trillion of debt.