This West Is OUR West

2 to be retried in September for Bundy standoff

 

By Valerie Richardson

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Federal prosecutors made it clear Wednesday that they refuse to give up on the Bundy standoff case despite being dealt another setback at the hands of jurors.

Prosecutors said they would return to court next month to retry two of the four defendants, O. Scott Drexler and Eric Parker, after a federal jury in Las Vegas acquitted them on most counts but deadlocked on the others.

The other two defendants, Richard Lovelien and Steven Stewart — were acquitted on all 10 counts stemming from their role in the armed 2014 standoff over grazing fees with the Bureau of Land Management at the Bundy Ranch.

Rather than dismiss the remaining charges against Mr. Drexler and Mr. Parker, prosecutors opted to put them on trial for the third time this year, prompting an outcry from their supporters.

The latest trial was already a retrial, held after the judge declared a hung jury in April on the four defendants, who were characterized by the court as low-level operatives during the clash over grazing fees at the Bundy ranch near Bunkerville.

Another two defendants, Greg Burleson and Todd Engel, were acquitted in April of conspiracy and assault on a federal officer, but found guilty of obstruction of justice and interstate aid in travel.

The deadlocks raise the possibility that the case may not wrap up for another year. Another dozen defendants are still awaiting trial, including Cliven Bundy and his sons Ammon and Ryan, as part of the court’s three-tier approach to the case.

The stakes are high — Burleson was sentenced to 68 years in prison and ordered to pay $15 million in restitution — but so far the Bundy defendants have gotten the best of federal prosecutors.

Last year, both Ammon and Ryan, along with five others, were acquitted by an Oregon jury on charges related to their 2016 armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

After celebrating the acquittals, Bundy supporters called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to dismiss the remaining counts against the defendants, describing the trials as a political vendetta and waste of money.

“It is TIME to drop the rest of these charges!” said KrisAnne Hall in a post on the Bundy Ranch page on Facebook. “It is time to stop wasting taxpayer time and dollars with vindictive prosecution and unjust persecution upon those who were exercising their Rights!”

Prosecutors have argued that the defendants brandished weapons and placed BLM agents in fear of their lives after hundreds of Bundy supporters descended on the rural area after the agency, prompted by Cliven Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees as a protest against the federal government, began impounding cattle.

Defense attorneys have countered that nobody was harmed in the standoff, described by the prosecution as a “massive armed assault against federal law enforcement.”

Andrea Olson-Parker, wife of Eric Parker, posted a video Wednesday taken outside the Las Vegas federal courthouse urging supporters to put pressure on their elected representatives.

“Call your public officials, call the DOJ, call everyone and tell them, we do not want to waste taxpayers dollars on this again,” she said, adding, “If we make enough noise, we’ve already seen that we can make a difference out here.”

She said her husband still faces a possible penalty of 33 years in prison for the remaining four counts, even though the jury acquitted him of conspiracy.

“We just have to keep playing their game, keep playing by the rules and beat them fair and square,” she said.

The latest acquittals came despite complaints by defense attorneys about U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro’s decision to limit certain witnesses and testimony, such as referencing their right to bear arms.

The defense opted to sit silently last week instead of giving closing arguments, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

The third trial for Mr. Drexler and Mr. Parker, who were moved Wednesday to a halfway house after spending a year in prison, is scheduled for Sept. 25.