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October 17, 2018

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Debate about Bundys’ actions in Bunkerville rages in advance of trial


Steve Marcus

Buttons, with images of Cliven Bundy’s son Ammon Bundy and Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum, are shown outside the federal courthouse in downtown Las Vegas Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. LaVoy Finicum was shot and killed by state troopers in Oregon last year. The trial of rancher Cliven Bundy, two of his sons, and Ryan Payne was postponed for a week

Bundy Trial Postponed

Supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy and his family are shown outside the federal courthouse in downtown Las Vegas Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. The trial of rancher Cliven Bundy, two of his sons, and Ryan Payne was postponed for a week. Launch slideshow »

Did the Bundy family and their supporters threaten federal officers by pointing guns at them during the 2014 Bunkerville standoff in Southern Nevada?

C.J. Hadley, publisher and editor of Range Magazine, said no this week on “Nevada Newsmakers.”

Patrick Donnelly, Nevada director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said yes.

Rancher Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and another co-defendant face a Las Vegas trial for allegedly leading an armed uprising against government agents in 2014. A key part of the prosecution is whether Bundy, his sons and others threatened federal officers by pointing guns at them.

It's proved to be a heated point of debate about the standoff and subsequent trials.

“The Bundys and their cronies were involved in an insurrection against the police in which many automatic and semiautomatic weapons where pointed at federal officers,” Donnelly said. “There is photographic evidence of that. That is not in dispute.

“When I first picked up a gun, I was told you only point a gun at somebody if you are ready to shoot them,” Donnelly said. “So these folks were ready to kill federal officers of the law.”

The Bundys’ lawyer in the current trial in Las Vegas has said his clients didn’t wield weapons and didn’t threaten anybody. Hadley agreed.

“I consider what Patrick Donnelly just said as unadulterated crap,” Hadley said. “The Bundys are guilty of absolutely nothing.”

Hadley pointed to two decisions in recent trials involving Bundy supporters. The latest Bundy trial was postponed this week when questions surfaced about federal prosecutors giving complete records of evidence to the defense.

“In the two (Bunkerville standoff) cases that have already come before Judge (Gloria) Navarro in Las Vegas, 10 to 1 to acquit the first time, 11 to 1 to acquit the second time because there was absolutely no proof that anyone on the Bundy side threatened anybody on the federal side,” Hadley said. “Zero.”

No shots were fired during the standoff. The Bundys and their supporters consider the standoff as a victory.

Jury Selection Begins For Cliven Bundy Trial

Federal Protective Service officers gather outside the federal courthouse as jury selection begins for Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and co-defendant Ryan Payne, in downtown Las Vegas Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. Launch slideshow »

Federal officers avoided violence by showing restraint, Donnelly said.

Cliven Bundy did not pay grazing fees to the federal government for years and had rolled up a bill of about $1 million, Donnelly said.

“Cliven Bundy and his ilk were breaking the law,” he said. “They were grazing their cattle illegally by not paying their grazing fees. And they were breaking the law for many, many years.

“This was not just, ‘Oops, we broke the law once.’ This was 21 years of not paying their grazing fees, which is including fees and taxes,” Donnelly said. "He (Cliven Bundy) owed $1 million. And their premise was, ‘This isn't your land to charge me grazing fees on.’ Well, the law says differently. Then they mounted an armed insurrection because they chose not to pay their taxes.”

Federal officers should not have been carrying weapons, Hadley said.

“What happened to get all of the people with weapons to the Bundy ranch was extraordinary,” Hadley said. “The Bureau of Land Management — they are really not police. They are federal-land managers and biologists, and they shouldn't even be carrying weapons. .... The jurisdiction on the Bundy ranch is the Clark County sheriff. They were in control, and they should have stopped the federal agents from coming in there with uniforms like they are in Iraq or Afghanistan with M4s and M16s with no decals on the trucks so you couldn't tell Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from the Park Service, BLM from FBI."

Ray Hagar is a retired political journalist from the Reno Gazette-Journal and current reporter/columnist for the Nevada Newsmakers podcast and website, Follow Ray on Twitter at @RayHagarNV.