Three strikes — you’re OUT! That was the stunning verdict that U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro delivered Monday to federal prosecutors, who had failed in two previous attempts to convict Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his two sons, Ryan and Ammon, of multiple felony charges related to the 2014 armed standoff between Bundy supporters and federal agents .
As we reported previously, Judge Navarro had cited multiple egregious abuses by federal authorities in her declaration of a mistrial on December 20. However, in that ruling she had left open the possibility of another retrial, which is what the prosecutors were arguing in favor of. Her latest ruling dismissed the charges “with prejudice,” meaning the government may not retry the case. Judge Navarro’s decision, which she read to a courtroom packed with Bundy family members and supporters, was a forceful smack-down to the federal government, using words not often heard in judicial rulings.
"The government's conduct in this case was indeed outrageous," the judge stated. "There has been flagrant misconduct, substantial prejudice and no lesser remedy is sufficient." She also used words such as “especially egregious,” “grossly shocking,” and "reckless disregard," in her stinging rebuke of the federal government’s misconduct. The judge found prosecutors had engaged in a "deliberate attempt to mislead" and had made multiple misrepresentations — both to the defense and to the court — regarding exculpatory “Brady evidence” they are required to produce for the defense. Instead, they had repeatedly concealed and/or denied the existence of the evidence.
The three Bundys and a fourth co-defendant, Ryan Payne, faced multiple felony charges, for which they might have been locked away in prison for decades: conspiracy, threatening a federal officer, carrying and using a firearm during the confrontation. They had already spent two years in prison, at the time of her mistrial ruling in December. Judge Navarro had released the Bundys before Christmas, but required them to stay under house arrest with GPS monitoring devices. The sons, Ammon and Ryan, opted for the release, but Cliven elected to stay in jail, insisting that he intended to walk out of the prison a free man, without another trial hanging over his head, and with his good name restored.
"I've been a political prisoner for right at 700 days today," the senior Bundy said, outside the courthouse, with his wife, Carol Bundy. "I come in this courtroom an innocent man and I'm going to leave as an innocent man. My defense is a 15-second defense. I raised my cattle only on Clark County, Nevada, land and I have no contract with the federal government. This court has no jurisdiction and authority over this matter. And I have put up with the court in America as a political prisoner for two years."
It appears his perseverance has paid off, and Cliven Bundy is, once again, a free man. The federal bureaucrats and prosecutors — as well as politicians, such as former Nevada Senator Harry Reid — and their media allies, who have persecuted Bundy and smeared the Bundy family, have been exposed. However, as a previous court ruling in the case of the Hage ranching family shows, unless the federal Department of Justice pursues significant legal penalties against the culpable bureaucrats and prosecutors in the Bundy case, there is good reason to believe that these flagrant abuses will continue.
Photo of Cliven Bundy: AP Images