A second trial of four men who sided with Clive Bundy against the Federal government is now underway in federal court, in Las Vegas. The first trial ended with convictions for two others but a hung jury on charges levied against these four men. The case is an important one for the western states, as it centers around BLM land oversight practices and constitutional issues, including free speech.
You may recall that In 2014 the BLM attempted to seize cattle belonging to Nevada rancher Clive Bundy to pay his land use fees. Bundy had been withholding the fees in prptest.
The Bundy ranch became a center of controversy for western cattlemen who were fed up with the BLM’s policies and shifting values. Some of those ranchers and others who are opposed to government overreach joined Bundy in protesting the cattle seizure.
The four men currently on trial are Eric Parker, Steven Stewart, Ricky Lovelien and Scott Drexler. They face a slew of charges, including conspiracy, obstructing justice, and assault on federal officers, and they could be sentenced up to 100 years in jail. Their first trial was held earlier this year. Two other men were convicted then of various charges, but the jury was not able to make a decision on the guilt or innocence of these four men.
Several others, including Clive Bundy and his sons, are awaiting their own trials, which will be calendared after this trial concludes.
According to a report in High Country News, this time the government is going to try to prove a conspiracy and that the men have ongoing ties to militia groups. They hope to show that the men have a long-standing intent to undermine the government.
The prosecutors also will try to keep out testimony from the defendants on their personal beliefs. In a brief submitted to the court, the prosecutors want the judge to “preclude irrelevant and prejudicial argument and information”. They want to cut off discussions about the the first amendment, the BLM, their world view, and other “irrelevant matters”.
Well. These things may be irrelevant to the prosecutor, but they mean something to the cattlemen they are trying to put in prison. We have to trust the judge will let the men have their day in court and let them present the evidence and information that supports their case. Let justice hear the case fairly.