If you’re following the Bundy case, you know there was a big surprise in December – the judge declared a mistrial. Federal District Court Judge Gloria Navarro said the mistrial occurred because prosecutors had withheld evidence and missed deadlines to provide information that could have helped the defense.
The Bundy trials, of course, are the result of a group of American cattle ranchers protesting policies and procedures of the US Bureau of Land Management – the BLM – that the cattlemen thought were unfair. Rancher Cliven Bundy had been withholding payment on his land use fees as part of the protest. Back in 2014 the BLM attempted to seize his cattle to collect the fees. Ranchers and others joined Bundy at his ranch, and an armed confrontation brought the cattle seizure to an end.
This trial is the latest, and probably the last, round of Federal prosecutions of the Bundys and their associates for their protests against the BLM. These cases are not going well for the Feds.
You may recall that In 2016, the Bundys and others took their protest to Oregon, to show support for an Oregon rancher who was being jailed, unfairly in their eyes. They took over the Malhuer Wildlife Preserve and occupied it for several weeks. At the end of that siege, the men faced various Federal charges – most of which were dismissed or ended in acquittal.
A mistrial doesn’t necessarily mean the case is over. The Judge will decide whether to dismiss the charges with or without prejudice – and if it is with prejudice, it’s over, the Feds cannot refile. The Judge will announce her decision on January 8, 2018.
But whatever happens, these cases have been a circus, with the Federal BLM shown to be excessive and overzealous in their enforcement of ever-changing rules and policies that have, in some cases, made it impossible for ranchers to deal with them. There’s been a snake in the woodpile and it is high time the government should deal with it.