Updated at 4:04pm EST, April 24, 2017
The first Bundy trial has ended in a mistrial after finding a federal informant guilty of eight charges and one of the defendants guilty of two lesser charges. The jury was hopelessly deadlocked on sixty more charges, even after federal judge Gloria Navarro sent the jury back to deliberate further.
The case has been hotly contested by their supporters, who say that the men were defending themselves against government agents who assaulted, tazed, and threatened them.
Todd Engel was found guilty on two charges; obstruction of justice, and interstate travel to aid extortion. Greg Burleson, a fellow defendant also revealed to have been working for the federal government as an informant throughout the events at Bundy Ranch, was found guilty on eight charges. According to Maxine Bernstein of OregonLive.com and Jenny Wilson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the jury was “hopelessly deadlocked” on all other charges — including the charge of conspiracy against the United States government. Federal judge Gloria Navarro has reportedly sent the jury back on an Allen charge to deliberate further on the other counts, but to no avail.
On the charges of impeding and injuring a federal officer, the jury could reach no verdict. Greg Burleson, the informant, was the only defendant convicted of assault on a federal officer, as well as threatening. He was also convicted of two counts of “firearm in relation to a crime of violence,” according to the Review-Journal, and interference with interstate commerce by extortion.
The six men on trial in a federal courtroom in Las Vegas, Nevada came from various parts of the country to assist rancher Cliven Bundy and his family with what they saw as a gross abuse of government power. Eric Parker, Scott Drexler, Todd Engel, and Steven Stewart are all from Idaho, while Richard Lovelein hails from Oklahoma. Greg Burleson, a defendant who was also named during the trial as a long-time government informant, is from Phoenix, Arizona.
This is only the first of three trials expected to come out of the 2014 standoff outside Bunkerville, Nevada. These six men were being tried as gunmen. Eric Parker, labeled by federal agents as the “Bundy sniper,” was “photographed pointing a long gun through a jersey barrier on the Interstate 15 overpass that overlooked the sandy ditch where protesters were face-to-face with federal agents. Parker is charged with several felonies, including conspiracy against the United States, numerous firearm offenses, and assault of a federal officer. The other defendants face similar charges; all of them could be sentenced to over one hundred years in prison during the sentencing phase of the trial. The so-called leaders of the standoff, rancher Cliven Bundy, and his sons, are expected to go on trial in another group slated for a federal court trial in June.
The standoff at Bundy’s ranch was the culmination of a long dispute between the Bundy and the federal government over grazing fees and public land use. Agents from the Bureau of Land Management rounded up Bundy’s cattle, killing at least six of them. Liberty-minded folks looking to support Bundy’s stand against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) came from all over the country, resulting in a forty-one-day standoff against BLM officials and other government agents. The stand-off captured the attention of freedom-focused citizens across the nation as violence was anticipated, but peace ultimately prevailed.
While the outnumbered agents finally backed down and released Cliven Bundy’s cattle, federal wheels continued to turn. The men were arrested and jailed until trial — a fifteen-month wait that entailed motions that resulted in a loss of rights concerning a speedy trial. The court case itself lasted six weeks, with all but two days spent on the prosecution. Marred from the outset by questions from observers and even media outlets that federal Judge Gloria Navarro (an Obama appointee) and the prosecutorial team were engaging in misconduct, the trial has become an ongoing controversy almost as heated as the issues that led up to the standoff itself.
Going forward, the level of media attention in Nevada and other western states could prove to be problematic when it comes to jury selection for the future trials. And it remains to be seen how the rest of the liberty community out West handles this verdict — and just how the federal government will handle protests and resistance from those who believe this is a case of government overreach.
Leesa K. Donner contributed to this report.