Federal prosecutors in Nevada have asked a judge to reconsider her decision to dismiss the government’s case against members of the Bundy family and a close supporter.
“The government believes the Court’s ruling is clearly erroneous,” Elizabeth White, appellate chief for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada, wrote in a court filing Wednesday.
The case stemming from a 2014 standoff between federal officials and Bundy family members and their supporters was dismissed last month, when U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro ruled that federal prosecutors improperly withheld key information from the defense.
Navarro dismissed the government’s charges with prejudice against family patriarch Cliven Bundy, his sons Ryan and Ammon Bundy, and U.S. Army veteran and militia leader Ryan Payne.
“The government respectfully requests that the Court reconsider its Order dismissing with prejudice the superseding indictment against these defendants, and either reinstate the entire indictment, or tailor a remedy to the violations,” White wrote in the government’s appeal of the case dismissal.
The Bunkerville standoff began in spring 2014 when the Bureau of Land Management obtained a court order to round up and impound Cliven Bundy’s cattle, which were grazing on the public land next to his family’s ranch.
For two decades, Bundy refused to pay grazing fees. He owes the BLM more than $1 million in unpaid fees and fines. And his cattle continue to graze on federal public land.
Navarro’s ruling last month was widely considered the end of the government’s case against the Bundys. And it still could be, depending on what Navarro makes of the government’s appeal.
“Even assuming its findings of discovery violation were correct, the Court failed to consider less drastic remedies or tailor the remedy to the violations, as required by Ninth Circuit law,” White wrote in government’s appeal.
“Reconsideration is therefore warranted.”
Supporters of the Bundys said Navarro’s ruling ended a case of government overreach. But for government officials, it marked an embarrassing end in the its largely failed quest to discipline the leaders of a movement that erroneously believes the federal government doesn’t have the Constitutional authority to own land.
White wrote in the government’s appeal that the defendants threatened more than 20 law enforcement officers.
“This case has major ramifications for all public lands law enforcement officers,” White wrote, noting officers often work alone in rural areas with no backup.
“Dismissing this entire case with prejudice, based on the government’s non-disclosure of mostly duplicative evidence of law enforcement’s pre-impoundment surveillance and preparation, would encourage the defendants, their supporters, and the public to disrespect the law and the lawful orders of the courts,” White wrote in the court filing.
The Nevada case was followed closely in Oregon because the Bundys also led the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
In October 2016, after nearly two months of hearing evidence, a jury acquitted the Bundy brothers and five others for their roles in occupation.
Payne pleaded guilty to conspiracy, a felony, and is currently in custody in Oregon. He’s scheduled to be sentenced later this month. Federal prosecutors have said during previous court hearings they plan to recommend Payne serve a 41-month sentence.