Liberals are furious after what they considered an “open and shut” case against states’ rights activists failed to convince a federal jury.
Government prosecutors received a huge setback after a federal jury in Las Vegas, Nevada refused to convict four men accused of threatening and assaulting federal agents, with assault weapons, while protesting the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in support of controversial figure Cliven Bundy in 2014, reports Fox News.
Three years ago, Cliven Bundy called on support for a “ranch war” after the BLM launched a roundup of cattle owned by the Bundy family. The cattle were allegedly grazing on federal land illegally. Bundy stopped paying for grazing permits in 1993 to protest what he describes as a “land grab” by the Federal government, according to The Washington Post.
In 1993, the BLM started to purchase grazing rights from local ranchers in an attempt to create a habitat for the desert tortoise, which is recognized as “threatened.” Land acquired by the BLM had been used by Bundy family ranchers since they settled in the region in 1877.
Cliven Bundy argued that the Federal government does not have the constitutional authority to own major tracts of land in his state. Instead, he claims they are rightfully owned by the State of Nevada. The rancher now owes over $1,000,000 to the Federal government in past-due grazing fees.
The Federal government came collecting in 2014, and launched a cattle roundup, closing over 300,000 acres of public land while preparing to collect Bundy’s livestock. Bundy released a “Range War Emergency Notice and Demand for Protection,” asking supporters to help him protect his property.
Bundy and eighteen others were arrested after protesting the BLM, including Ricky Lovelien, Steven Stewart, Scott Drexler, and Eric Parker, who were all recently acquitted by a federal jury. Steven Stewart and Ricky Lovelien were acquitted of all ten charges after a second trial. They were both set free.
Scott Drexler and Eric Parker were found not-guilty of all serious charges, but are being held by federal authorities while prosecutors decide if they want to launch a third trial.
The jury’s decision to side with the defendants was a major set back to federal prosecutors hoping to send a message to states’ rights activists. The four men recently tried were considered the least culpable of the protestors who heeded Bundy’s call for support.
The jury spent six days deliberating the case after more than 20 days of testimony. The jury refused to find any of the men guilty of the key charge sought by federal prosecutors – conspiracy to form a militia to prevent the government from enforcing court orders.
John Lamb, a Montana man who watched the trial with interest, celebrated the decision. “Random people off the streets, these jurors, they told the government again that we’re not going to put up with tyranny,” he said.
Carol Bundy, the wife of Cliven and matriarch of the Bundy family, also celebrated the decision. “They’ve been tried twice and found not guilty,” she explained from outside court. “We the people are not guilty.” However, her husband and her two sons remain in police custody.