Judge ends case over standoff in Nevada land dispute


Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro's ruling on Monday comes after she declared a mistrial last month in proceedings against 71-year-old Cliven Bundy, sons Ryan and Ammon Bundy, and Montana militia leader Ryan Payne.

Cliven Bundy was accused of leading a 2014 armed standoff against federal agents over a cattle grazing dispute.

Judge Gloria Navarro dismissed the case against Cliven Bundy "with prejudice", meaning it can not be tried again.

She said the attorneys were in violation of the Brady rule, which requires prosecutors to disclose evidence that could be favorable to a defendant, and told them it wasn't possible to proceed with the case.

It was yet another defeat for the federal government at the hands of the Bundy family, who have managed to elude prosecution in high-profile trials centered around standoffs with law enforcement over access to public land.

"The court finds that the universal sense of justice has been violated", Navarro said as audible gasps and sobs erupted in a court gallery crammed with Bundy supporters.

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Jurors in Portland, Oregon, also acquitted Ryan and Ammon Bundy more than a year ago of taking over a federal wildlife refuge in early 2016 and calling for the USA government to turn over public land to local control. Navarro had declared a mistrial last month.

The four were charged with felony counts of carrying and using a firearm, engaging in conspiracy and threatening a federal officer.

Navarro set a February 26 trial date for four defendants still awaiting trial, including two more Bundy sons, Mel and David.

The long legal saga of the Bundys and their armed opposition to federal land management in 2014 has come to an abrupt end.

After Navarros ruling in December, prosecutors said in their court filings that fears of violence against witnesses were part of their decisionmaking in what evidence to release.

Last year, two separate trials against six other men accused of conspiracy in the Bundy ranch standoff ended without convictions.

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The BLM cancelled its effort to impound the Cliven Bundy's cattle over his refusal to pay grazing fees to the federal government after hundreds of Bundy supporters, some of them armed, rallied to the family's defense in April 2014 at the ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada.

The defense also should have been given records of government threat assessments that concluded the Bundys would probably protest but not become violent if agents enforcing court orders began rounding up their cattle, the judge said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre wrote in his brief that the government shared 1.5 terabytes of information and noted it was "by far, the largest review and disclosure operation in this (U.S. Attorney's Office's) history".

The case has fueled anger and mistrust among groups that view the federal government as overzealous and overreaching in using its power and authority to squash free speech and states' rights.

The Bureau of Land Management oversees much of the land west of the Rocky Mountains.

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