LAS VEGAS (CN) – Even if his blindness should go away, Cliven Bundy supporter Gregory Burleson likely won’t see the light of day outside of a federal prison after being sentenced to more than 68 years Wednesday.
Burleson, 53, traveled from his hometown of Phoenix to support rancher Cliven Bundy in his effort to stop the Bureau of Land Management from impounding up to 1,000 head of cattle in April 2014.
Burleson arrived with others on April 12, 2014, when Bundy and dozens of his supporters halted the BLM’s roundup and forced it to release about 400 head of cattle. The BLM was enforcing a federal court order to impound and sell up to 1,000 head of cattle that were grazing on federal land.
The BLM says Bundy owes $3 million for about 20 years of unpaid grazing fees. Bundy contends the federal government has no legal authority to own or manage public lands in Nevada.
Burleson is among 19 people who were charged with up to 15 felonies each over their roles in the standoff, and the second to be sentenced.
After a 32-day trial, a jury this past April found Burleson guilty on eight of 10 counts against him, including threatening and assaulting a federal law enforcement officer, obstruction, interference with interstate commerce by extortion, interstate travel in aid of extortion, and three counts of use and carry of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.
The jury deadlocked on two counts of conspiracy.
Seeking leniency in sentencing, attorney Terrence Jackson called Burleson a “victim” of a “process started by other people” and said he would be “highly vulnerable” in prison due to a recent loss of eyesight and medical problems.
Jackson said Burleson only exercised his rights to carry a firearm and participate in a protest, which had mostly concluded by the time Burleson arrived and during which no one was hurt.
“There wasn’t any blood on the desert floor” and there was “no evidence he made any threats or gestures,” Jackson said.
Burleson told U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro he “did not go with the intention of killing or assaulting anyone” when he traveled to the protest site near the Bundy ranch outside Bunkerville, about 65 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Dickinson said after the standoff concluded, Burleson made statements to others and on Facebook that he “wanted to kill federal agents.”
Dickinson said “his actions in the wash match his statements,” and called Burleson “dangerous.”
Burleson also called on others to burn down mosques and ranted about former President Barack Obama on social media, Dickinson said.
“Those are disturbing statements by somebody prone to violence,” Dickinson said.
Burleson said his statements were fueled by alcohol, and do not “reflect his character.”
“I’m kind of ashamed I made those comments,” Burleson said.
Burleson appeared slightly disheveled during the sentencing hearing, with long, shaggy dark hair, a thick dark mustache and long, graying beard. He wore a yellow prison top over a gray t-shirt.
Navarro said Burleson’s blindness and medical conditions are legitimate, but do not leave him vulnerable in prison.
She sentenced him to 819 months in prison, plus three years of supervised release.
Four co-defendants, O. Scott Drexler, Eric Parker, Richard Lovelien and Steven Stewart, are being retried after the jury could not reach verdicts on any of the counts against them.
The jury found co-defendant Todd Engel, of Idaho, guilty on two counts against him. He awaits sentencing.
Bundy and four co-defendants are scheduled to go on trial 30 days after the conclusion of the retrial. Six remaining co-defendants will be tried after the conclusion of Bundy’s trial.
Two other co-defendants have already pleaded guilty. Navarro sentenced New Hampshire resident Gerald DeLemus, 62, to 87 months in prison in May.
Blaine Cooper, 38, of Humboldt, Arizona, awaits sentencing.