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No one wants to convict these men for their roles in the Bundy ranch standoff

No one wants to convict these men for their roles in the Bundy ranch standoff

Two were acquitted

For the second time, a jury refused to convict participants in the Bundy ranch standoff in 2014.

Tuesday, not only did a jury find Ricky Lovelien and Steven Stewart not guilty, but they were acquitted of all charges. Scott Drexler and Eric Parker were also found not guilty on most charges. They were accused of threatening and assaulting federal agents in the cattle roundup that turned into a states’ rights battle.

From the Las Vegas Sun:

In a stunning setback to federal prosecutors planning to try the Bundy family patriarch and two adult sons later this year, the jury acquitted Ricky Lovelien and Steven Stewart of all 10 charges, and delivered not-guilty findings on most charges against Scott Drexler and Eric Parker.

More than 30 defendants’ supporters in the courtroom broke into applause after Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro ordered Lovelien and Stewart freed immediately and set Wednesday morning hearings to decide if Parker and Drexler should remain jailed pending a government decision whether to seek a third trial.

“Random people off the streets, these jurors, they told the government again that we’re not going to put up with tyranny,” said a John Lamb, a Montana resident who attended almost all the five weeks of trial, which began with jury selection July 10.

“They’ve been tried twice and found not guilty,” Bundy family matriarch Carol Bundy said outside court. “We the people are not guilty.”

A trial held earlier this year rendered a similar verdict:

A first trial earlier this year lasted two months and ended in April with a different jury finding two defendants — Gregory Burleson of Phoenix and Todd Engel of Idaho — guilty of some charges but failing to reach verdicts against Drexler, Parker, Lovelien and Stewart.

Prosecutors characterized the six as the least culpable of 19 co-defendants arrested in early 2016 and charged in the case, including Bundy family members. With the release of Lovelien and Stewart, 17 are still in federal custody.

The current jury deliberated four full days after more than 20 days of testimony. The six men and six women returned no verdicts on four charges against Parker — assault on a federal officer, threatening a federal officer and two related counts of use of a firearm — and also hung on charges of assault on a federal officer and brandishing a firearm against Drexler. Navarro declared a mistrial on those counts.

None of the defendants was found guilty of a key conspiracy charge alleging that they plotted with Bundy family members to form a self-styled militia and prevent the lawful enforcement of multiple court orders to remove Bundy cattle from arid desert rangeland in what is now the Gold Butte National Monument.

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Coloradoopenrange | August 23, 2017 at 1:30 pm

The action of the Government were reprehensible. I hope the next juries refuse to convict as well!

Yes! This is the correct outcome for this fustercluck between the Bureau of Land Management and former senate majority leader Harry Reid(D – may we all spit on his grave when dead).

It’s time to acquit all 19!

Jury nullification?

UnCivilServant | August 23, 2017 at 2:07 pm

I keep imagining the situation where one of these cases against a rancher goes through the trial, the Jury deliberates for a while – then declares BLM guilty of official oppression.

having grown up in the west, I am neither surprised at the outcome or upset. The BLM (and indeed most of the federal agencies that work out there have been and gotten more heavy-handed. The Animas River spill is a perfect example of their hubris.

Name two terrorist organizations….

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Black Lives Matter (BLM)

Do they get their tee shirts from the same supplier?

buckeyeminuteman | August 23, 2017 at 4:18 pm

I’m still waiting for the trials of the Oregon State Patrol officers who killed LaVoy Finicum in January 2016 after the Malheur cluster.

So, now it perfectly alright to threaten agents of the government, with a loaded firearm, when they are enforcing a properly executed court order. Right. what is the difference between these two yahoos and Antifa thugs? Only their cause.

For some reason, people seem to think that the federal government can not legally manage lands which it holds in trust. Bundy had failed to pay his grazing fees for over a decade. The BLM had gone to court to evict Bundy’s cattle on three occasions. On all three occasions, the court ruled that Bundy had to remove his cattle from public land. Bundy refused. When the BLM personnel went to BLM controlled public land to remove Bundy’s cattle, they were met by armed persons who threatened them. This was, at the least obstructing a federal officer and at worst treason against the government of the United States of America. Anyone who supports these yahoo’s actions in this case has no moral ground on which to criticize Antifa.

    Milhouse in reply to Mac45. | August 23, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    I don’t know much about the case, but I seem to recall reading that Bundy stopped paying the grazing fees because they’d been dramatically raised beyond all reason, for the express purpose of driving him out

    When fees are set at a level designed neither to optimize usage nor to maximize revenue, as any normal business would do, but rather to make usage impossible and drive users out of business, and the courts refuse to interfere, then what choice are users left with?

      Mac45 in reply to Milhouse. | August 23, 2017 at 5:32 pm

      What Bundy was doing was running a for-profit business on land which did not belong to him. What the managers of that land did was to close off that area to ALL users, not just Bundy. If this land had been privately owned, no one would support Bundy’s actions. But, because it was publicly owned land managed by one of the federal agencies which people love to hate, suddenly Bundy’s actions were justified along with the actions of his supporters, in some people’s minds.

      No one has the RIGHT to use publicly held lands for any purpose that they wish. Look, if Mickey “the Mole” Scarpezzi opened a casino on this land and the government had tried to evict him and he had refused to leave and the courts had ordered his casino to be removed, no one would say a thing. The local Sheriff would have arrested Mickey and he would be doing time for threatening a LEO. And no one would be defending him. So, exactly why are otherwise sane people defending the actions of Bundy and his supporters?

        Milhouse in reply to Mac45. | August 23, 2017 at 6:20 pm

        The problem with your argument is that the BLM is supposed to manage the land in the public interest, not to arbitrarily decide what to do with it to suit itself. Does it have the right to decide, for ideological reasons, that land which had traditionally been used for public grazing should no longer be available for that purpose?

        For that matter, does it have the statutory authority to do so? If it does then why didn’t it say so outright, rather than raise the fees? This makes me suppose that it’s required to allow grazing to anyone willing to pay the fees, so it thought it could get around that by making the fee impossible to pay. But as the Supreme Court pointed out in the 0bamacare decision, a “tax” that’s deliberately set so high that nobody can pay it is not really a tax at all, but a penalty and a backdoor means of imposing an illegal prohibition.

        If this is correct, it follows that BLM is obliged to set its grazing fee either to maximize revenue, or to optimize usage after determining the land’s carrying capacity. It’s not open to it to declare that the optimal usage level is zero.

        Or am I off base in all this. I really don’t know this area of law at all well. (I do know that the claims one often hears in certain circles that the BLM’s ownership of the land is somehow illegitimate or unconstitutional are utter bunk. There’s no question that the land is the rightful property of the USA, the only question I raise is about the extent of BLM’s mandate to manage it.)

          Mac45 in reply to Milhouse. | August 23, 2017 at 7:18 pm

          Actually, the argument was not over the amount of the fees, but over restricting the use of the land due to the discovery of a tortoise which was classified as a protected species. Initially, anyone wanting to graze cattle had to limit the number of head to 150 AND to remain outside two designated areas which were closed as tortoise sanctuaries. Bundy, over the next 20 years refused to pay grazing fees to the BLM, instead paying them to Clark County, which did not own the land. And, the BLM provided significant evidence that Bundy was running anywhere from 500 to 900 head of cattle on the range, including within the closed areas. The BLM issued eviction orders on three occasions, all of which were upheld by the federal district court and the 9th Circuit refused to hear Bundy’s appeal.

          The conflict that has arisen between ranchers and the BLM goes back over 150 years. When the US Government took control of large portions of the American West, which, were not owned by private citizens, ranchers continued to graze livestock on these open ranges. They initially paid no fess and, as they did not own the land, they paid no taxes. Some ranchers actually bought large parcels of land from the government upon which they grazed their cattle. Others decided to forgo this expense. So, as time went by, the Federal government, that is you and I, continued to subsidized ranchers by allowing them to graze cattle on government owned land for a modest fee. And, many of these ranchers feel that the own this public land. Bundy had made “improvements” to the BLM land, by constructing cattle pens and watering facilities for his cattle on public land. This was strictly forbidden.

          But, the bottom line to all of this is that Bundy presented his case in court three times and the court ruled against him every single time. So, first he ignored the court. Then his supporters took up arms and physically threatened agents of the US government, who were lawfully going about their duty. I’m sorry, but try to spin it any way that you like, Bundy was wrong as were all his supporters, including those in Oregan. Juries may unilaterally decide that those who broke the law are not guilty, but that does not make it so.

          Breitbart laid it out pretty well in 2014:

          Milhouse in reply to Milhouse. | August 23, 2017 at 8:03 pm

          Further questions, since you seem to know a lot more about this stuff than I do.

          Did BLM have the authority to impose this 150-head restriction, and to prohibit private improvements that increase the land’s carrying capacity? Again, BLM is a custodian, not an owner; its decisions are subject to the same reasonable-basis analysis as those of any other government agency, and if its mission from Congress is to manage the land for the benefit of those members of the public who traditionally use it, i.e. the neighboring ranchers, then it seems reasonable to expect that it should set its grazing limits and fees with a view to optimizing usage, rather than discouraging it, and should welcome such improvements.

          I mean, imagine if the National Park Service were to decide it didn’t want people visiting Yellowstone, so it imposed a $1000 entry fee, or restricted entry to 20 people at a time. Would that be legitimate? I think even Chevron deference would stop there.

          Also, could the neighboring pastoralists be said to have gained an easement on the public lands, derived from their century-old traditional usage? I know there is no adverse possession against the government, but would that apply here?

          If Bundy was paying the grazing fee to the local sheriff that’s just silly; he might as well have paid you or me.

          I’m not so impressed by the court ruling against him, because I’d expect it to take the fedgov’s side, and not to even seriously consider his position. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it was wrong.

          Milhouse in reply to Milhouse. | August 23, 2017 at 8:04 pm

          Re: Oregon, that was just outright theft. The people who invaded the federal facility didn’t even pretend to have any right to be there. It was miles away from the property of the person they were supporting.

          DaveGinOly in reply to Milhouse. | August 24, 2017 at 1:24 am

          We know that cities that have attempted to enforce egregious zoning laws to force firearms dealers out have lost when challenged in court. What the BLM did is similar to what Seattle’s attempt to force firearms dealers out of the city with burdensome taxes. Because it has the same effect, such actions are similarly unconstitutional. As you say, if the BLM had the authority to simply throw the users off the land, they would have done so. They didn’t, so they made the fees for the use of the land ridiculously high in order to have the same effect. Not cool and legally questionable.

          Milhouse in reply to Milhouse. | August 24, 2017 at 8:40 am

          Not really the same thing, though. Cities don’t own the land they’re zoning. A better analogy would be if you found a case where a city refused to lease stores on its own property to gun dealers or something like that.

          Mac45 in reply to Milhouse. | August 24, 2017 at 11:59 pm

          The court ruled that the Federal government owned the land and that the BLM was free to restrict the use of the land in the manner that it had done, under existing laws. It further ruled that Bundy had not followed the procedures for use of the land [i.e. not paying the required fee, grazing more cattle than allowed, grazing cattle in unauthorized areas and making unauthorized improvement to the land]. It ordered the removal of any and all cattle belonging to Bundy as well as any unknown cattle which were found on the range. Pretty simple eviction.

          Bundy ignored all such orders and continued to graze his cattle on the land until the BLM went to remove said cattle. Then he showed up with a large number of armed supporters who physically threatened the government agents with violence of they removed or harmed any of the illegally grazing cattle.

          Now, I do not see what you fail to understand about this situation. Bundy violated the regulations with regard to grazing cattle on this tract of public land. he did so knowingly, even admitting it in depositions. He was taken to court to force his compliance with the regulations or to remove his cattle from the land. He continued to ignore the court. when the BLM moved to enforce the order of the court, these people threatened the government agents with imminent death or great bodily harm. And while you might not like the government, or a particular government agency, in this case, that agency followed the rules and gave Bundy nearly two decades to abide by the regulations, make other arrangements for his cattle or get Congress to change the rule for him. He did none of these things, instead choosing to simply ignore the federal courts. when people get to make up their own rules, civilization no longer exists.

          Now here is the reality under which we all live. If you threaten a LEO with a firearm, or other deadly weapon, while he is in the performance of his lawful duty, he will kill you, legally. These yahoos had better thank the Lord, every single day, that the agents showed extreme restraint and that they [the yahoos] didn’t end up in body bags. If you are going to start a revolution, be sure that you are both right and can win it.

          Milhouse in reply to Milhouse. | August 25, 2017 at 9:34 am

          Once again, that the court rubber-stamped BLM’s decisions and actions is neither here nor there. I expect federal courts to do that, whether BLM is right or wrong. The question here is where our sympathies ought to lie, and that can’t depend on what a court said. Who is in the right here? What limits, if any, should there be on BLM’s authority to control the public’s land? And what rights, if any, do the neighboring ranchers have, that BLM may not infringe? The answer isn’t immediately obvious to me.

          I don’t believe BLM is in the same position as a private land-owner. It’s a trustee for the public, and I believe in great part it’s a trustee for the very neighbors it decided to drive out of business, since they are the primary public for whose benefit Congress put it in charge of those lands in the first place. It would be different if Congress had authorized this anti-rancher policy, but it didn’t. BLM career staff came up with it on their own, motivated, I believe, by the pagan Green religion.

          Is Bundy a nut? That he paid rent to the sheriff, who certainly doesn’t own the land, would so indicate. But nuts have rights too, and when a nut claims to be persecuted sometimes he’s right. I don’t know whether that’s the case here.

          Mac45 in reply to Milhouse. | August 25, 2017 at 1:18 pm

          Your argument is spurious. But, let’s take look at. A group of home owners purchase a vacant lot in their neighborhood and turn it into a park. They require a yearly fee be paid to use the park. One of them decided to graze cattle on the land. This makes it dangerous for picnickers, frisbee throwers, small children and dogs to use the park. They tell the cattle to owner to reduce the number of cattle on the land and to keep the cattle outside of two playground areas. The cattle owner not only ignores them, but refuses to pay the neighborhood association the required fee; choosing to tender it to the county Sheriff, who has no interest in the park. Are you saying that the neighborhood associate has no legal right to procure a court order to authorize the removal of the cattle? Really?

          As to your unsupported assumption that the federal courts simply sided with the BLM because they are both organs of the federal government is ludicrous. What evidence do you have to support that, in this case. To me, it looks as though the judge was on solid legal footing with his decisions. The BLM can control the use of the land, as it did. It did not discriminate against a single rancher or group of ranchers. Bundy refused to pay the required usage fees. And, he violated several of the regulations governing use of the land, such as constructing structures and facilities on the land without permission. What he did was to occupy the land, illegal, and treat it as his own private property.

          To actively rest the government agents in the re-acquisition of PUBLIC land, through armed threats is a criminal act. Period.

      Casey in reply to Milhouse. | August 25, 2017 at 2:12 pm

      At the end of the day, it’s now what you think is legal (or right) but what the actual text of the law says.

      From what I’ve read, Mac45’s analysis is correct. Bundy violated the law as written. It may be a stupid law, or a poorly-written law, but until it is struck down or re-written the text stands. It doesn’t really matter where one’s “sympathies” lie. It’s the text that matters.

    tom swift in reply to Mac45. | August 23, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    Only their cause.

    You seem to think this is irrelevant.

    That’s why you don’t understand the jury.

      Mac45 in reply to tom swift. | August 25, 2017 at 12:07 am

      That line has nothing to do with the JURY. It has to do with people who support yahoos who want to start a revolution over a bunch of cows which the government had every right to remove from public land. The same people, who would criticize the Antifa yahoos for their actions but support the Bundy yahoos for theirs, are the ultimate hypocrites. Both groups engaged in unlawful actions against the people of the USA. There was no real difference between the two. Unlawful violence against other citizens of the US is a crime.

        PersonFromPorlock in reply to Mac45. | August 25, 2017 at 7:18 am

        It had everything to do with the jury, which is the voice of the Sovereign. In this case, the Sovereign decided there was no crime… and that’s the end of it.

          Do you say the same about the juries that routinely acquitted lynchers?

          Juries are notoriously fickle. They often do not decide issues based upon the law, but upon their own biases. That is why activists tout jury nullification so strongly. Jury nullification is not a true legal concept. It is simply where a group of 6 – 12 people decide that a law made by the representatives of ALL the people in a state or nation is wrong. It is the ultimate tyranny of the minority. And, though it can usually be overturned or not accepted by the judge, judges are reluctant to go out on that limb.

          In the case of these men, the jury, if it followed the usual jury instructions, should have found the men guilty of violating the law. It is then up to the judge to decide what the sentence for that violation should be, based upon factoers involved in the violation.

Makes me think of the end of this article.

Donald Trump is a warning. Trump is the best case scenario. If you somehow depose him via your smarmy shenanigans, what comes along next is really going to upset you. You need to understand something.

Trump is not our last chance. He’s your last chance.