Judge Won’t Dismiss Any Counts Against Bundy

LAS VEGAS (CN) — A federal judge refused to dismiss any of the 16 felony charges against Cliven Bundy for his armed standoff with federal officials who attempted to seize cattle he had been grazing illegally for years on federal land.

Bundy, who claims the federal government has no right to federal land, had refused to pay grazing fees for years when the Bureau of Land Management and other officials tried to round up some 400 of his cattle in April 2014. Armed supporters arrived and held off the federal agents at and around Bundy’s ranch near Bunkerville, about 65 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The BLM says Bundy owes about $3 million in grazing fees.

He is one of 17 criminal defendants who face up to 16 felony counts each. The first set of defendants is to go to trial on Feb. 6.

Bundy said in a motion to dismiss that the “federal government does not have any ownership interest in the Bundy Ranch,” and the federal court has no jurisdiction in the dispute.

Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro rejected those arguments, and all others, in her Jan. 18 order.

Bundy called the armed standoff “unlawful and … an aggressive trespass onto lands owned by the people of Nevada,” Leen said. He demanded dismissal of 13 of 16 counts and partial dismissal of another, claiming, among other things, that they require proof the federal agents were doing their lawful duties and failed to state a claim.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen rejected his arguments and recommended denial of the motion.

Navarro noted in her order that Bundy’s objections arise from his “general premise that ‘the land is not owned by the United States.’”

Leen wrote in her report that Bundy “for more than two decades has argued that the federal government does not have an ownership interest in any land in Nevada. However, this argument has been soundly and consistently rejected by every court to consider the issue.’”

The Ninth Circuit in 1997, in United States v. Gardner, denied Gardner’s argument, which Bundy repeats in his motion, that the “‘unappropriated lands in the state of Nevada … [are] not territory or other property belonging to the United States.’”

Navarro denied Bundy’s motion and affirmed Leen’s report and recommendation.