The prosecutors broke the 17 defendants in the Bunkerville standoff into three groups. Six would be tried in April and the others — including 71-year-old rancher Cliven Bundy and his sons — would be tried shortly thereafter.
But in April the jurors convicted only two of the six of any charges. Jurors told defense lawyers after the trial they never came close to convicting four defendants, voting 10-2 in favor of acquitting two and splitting on the others.
The government decided to retry those four and rejected Cliven Bundy’s bid to move up his trial, saying he would have to wait in jail until after the retrial. That retrial ended this week with two of the four being acquitted and the remaining two acquitted of all but a handful of lesser charges. All have been freed. But the prosecutor has decided to retry for a third time the two for whom some charges remain unresolved, even though defense attorneys were told jurors at one point voted 11-1 for acquittal on all charges. The retrial of Scott Drexler and Eric Parker is scheduled for Sept. 25.
Meanwhile, 11 defendants remain in jail awaiting trial, even though two juries have largely voted against conviction of their co-defendants. This was even though in the latest trial the defense was handcuffed by the judge prohibiting any defense based on First and Second Amendment rights or excessive force by federal agents.
The 11 have been jailed for a year and half. The further delays in their trials are due entirely to the prosecution being unable to convince jurors of guilt. So trials that could have started in May or June are again delayed?
The standoff occurred after heavily armed Bureau of Land Management agents attempted to confiscate Bundy’s cattle after he had refused for 20 years to pay grazing fees. Faced with armed protesters the agents eventually released the cattle. The 17 Bunkerville defendants were charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy, extortion, assault and impeding federal officers.
Is it time to consider freeing the remaining defendants on bond?
How much is this prosecutorial intransigence costing taxpayers?