Feds Win Bid to Keep Cliven Bundy in Jail

     PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Cliven Bundy will remain in jail while awaiting trial on half a dozen federal felony charges that could keep him locked up for the rest of his life if convicted, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
     Bundy, 69, sat quietly through Tuesday’s hearing at the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse, turning several times to observe the packed gallery.
     He was arrested Feb. 10 at the Portland International Airport when he arrived in town to rally support for his sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who are in jail facing federal conspiracy charges over their month-long armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
     Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven W. Myhre called Bundy a “lawless and violent man” who threatened the lives of the federal agents during a 2014 confrontation at Bundy’s ranch.
     Myhre said Bundy recruited more than 400 armed militants from across 10 states to “chest up” with Bureau of Land Management employees, who were trying to enforce a judge’s order that Bundy remove his cattle from public land. Bundy had defied federal orders for 20 years and refused to pay over $1 million in grazing fees.
     “Almost to a person, every federal law enforcement officer there thought they were going to die that day,” Myhre told Stewart.
     But court-appointed attorney Noel Grefenson of Salem, Oregon, argued that the government’s 22-month delay in arresting Bundy over the April 2014 armed standoff at his Bunkerville, Nevada ranch contradicted its claim that he was a danger to society.
     U.S. Magistrate Judge Janice M. Stewart impatiently discarded Grefenson’s argument.
     “Alright, well you made your point,” Stewart said. “Twenty-two months. What else?”
     Grefenson said that Bundy’s refusal to comply with federal orders to remove his cattle should not determine whether he would obey Stewart’s orders if he were released pending trial.
     “His cattle grazing on public land is a completely different matter,” Grefenson said. “That’s not even a criminal matter.”
     But Stewart sided with the government, finding that Bundy had established a pattern of disregard for the orders of federal judges and calling him both a flight risk and a threat to public safety.
     “If he’s released and he goes back to his ranch, that’s likely the last the court will ever see of him,” she said, noting that five of the six federal felony charges against Bundy carry the presumption of violence.
     The government also revealed its reasons for waiting nearly two years after the confrontation at Bunkerville to arrest the Bundy patriarch.
     “Everywhere he goes, he travels with bodyguards,” Myhre said. “When he flew to Portland, he came without one.”
     In its memorandum arguing for Bundy to be held in jail pending trial on six federal felony charges, the government argued that what Bundy does can only loosely be referred to as ranching.
     Calling his practices “unconventional if not bizarre,” the government says Bundy lets his “feral herd” graze over thousands of acres in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area that surrounds his 160-acre ranch in rural Nevada.
     “Raised in the wild, Bundy’s cattle are left to fend for themselves year-round, fighting off predators and scrounging for the meager amounts of food and water available in the difficult and arid terrain that comprises the public lands in that area of the country,” the memo states. “Bereft of human interaction, his cattle that manage to survive are wild, mean and ornery.
     “He does not vaccinate or treat his cattle for disease; does not employ cowboys to control and herd them; does not manage or control breeding; has no knowledge of where all the cattle are located at any given time; rarely brands them before he captures them; and has to bait them into traps in order to gather them.
     “At the time of the events giving rise to the charges, Bundy’s cattle numbered over 1,000 head, straying as far as 50 miles from his ranch and into the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, getting stuck in mud, wandering onto golf courses, straying onto the freeway (causing accidents on occasion) – foraging aimlessly and wildly, roaming in small groups over hundreds of thousands of acres of federal lands that exist for the use of the general public for many other types of commercial and recreational uses such as camping, hunting, and hiking.”
     Until the early 1990s, Bundy paid his grazing fees under the permit his father secured in the 1950s. But in 1993, the Bureau of Land Management reduced the number of cattle Bundy could graze on public land and said he could only graze them there part of the year.
     That was when Bundy announced that he had “fired the BLM,” the memo states. But it wasn’t his ultra-conservative ideology that drove him to ignore the new rules – he was too lazy to bring his cattle in during the winter, the government claims.
     “Bundy claims he has strong anti-federal government views, proclaiming that the federal government cannot own land under the U.S. Constitution,” the memo states. “These are not principled views – and certainly they have no merit legally – but nonetheless serve conveniently as a way for Bundy to somehow try to convince others that he has some reason for acting lawlessly, other than the obvious one: it serves his own ends and benefits him financially. “Untethering himself from the law, Bundy claims he can do with his cattle as he pleases, including not incurring the expenses to manage or control them and not paying for the forage they consume at the expense of federal taxpayers.”
     Four years later, the federal government sued Bundy for continuing to let his cattle run wild and refusing to pay grazing fees. Bundy lost the case. Then-U.S. District Judge Johnny Rawlinson ordered him to remove his cattle from public land.
     Bundy appealed to the Ninth Circuit and lost, making the same argument that his sons repeatedly made during the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge: that the federal government cannot own land outside of Washington, D.C. other than a bunker or an artillery range.
     The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Bundys’ argument before they even brought it up. In 1976, Justice Thurgood Marshall authored a unanimous opinion finding that the property clause of the Constitution authorizes the federal government to exercise “complete power” over public lands.
     In 2012, the government again sued Cliven Bundy and in July 2013, U.S. District Judge Lloyd George ordered him to remove his cattle from federal land. Bundy refused, and the government announced plans to seize his cattle in April 2014.
     That’s when Bundy put out the call to rally armed followers to his side, setting the stage for the three-day armed confrontation with federal agents on his ranch.
     More than 400 people quickly answered his call, flocking to his ranch and setting up armed checkpoints, sniper positions and firing ranges on the public land around his property, according to the government’s memo.
     The government says Bundy organized an armed mob for one reason: because the Bureau of Land Management “was enforcing the law and Bundy didn’t like it – so he organized an armed assault.”
     And the government says Cliven Bundy and his sons were clearly in it for the long haul.
     A few days after the 2014 standoff, Ammon Bundy appeared in an interview on the “Pete Santilli Show,” whose namesake later joined Ammon Bundy as a co-defendant in the current federal case.
     Foreshadowing the armed occupation he would later spearhead with his brother, Ammon Bundy characterized the 2014 standoff as a minor skirmish in a larger battle against the government.
     “We haven’t won the war, we’ve just won one battle,” Ammon Bundy said in the interview.
     The memo also connects the elder Bundy to his sons’ takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The memo cites a Facebook post signed by Cliven Bundy on Jan. 1, the day before his sons seized the refuge.
     In the post, Cliven Bundy “suggests” that Harney County ranchers Steven and Dwight Hammond, who are currently in jail for setting two fires on the public land where they grazed their cattle, seek protective custody in county jail as a way to avoid serving their federal sentences. Bundy outlines the argument repeatedly made by his son Ammon: that a sheriff holds ultimate authority over his county and can override federal authority there.
     Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward publically rejected that argument.
     “I’m the sheriff,” he said at a press conference in January. “I can’t break the law. It’s my duty to uphold it.”
     In mid-January, the elder Bundy praised his sons’ armed occupation.
     “Somebody has to stand up, and it happened to be my sons that stood, and they will stand,” he told a Las Vegas television reporter. “They’re not going to give up.”
     And on Feb. 1, Cliven Bundy sent a notarized “Notice to Harney County Sheriff,” announcing the intent of “We the People” to retain possession of the “Harney County Resource Center” – the name the militants gave to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
     Bundy sent copies of the notice to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and President Barack Obama.
     “What this is saying is that Cliven Bundy is taking control of things,” he told The Guardian. “If we don’t retain it, then we’ve lost everything that we’ve done in the last two months. We’re not gonna give up. This is not Ammon’s message. This is my message. We’ve made a decision to retain it. The feds are going to get out of there.”
     At the moment, however, the only thing Cliven Bundy will control is whether to put artwork up in his jail cell, given Judge Stewart’s finding that he is a flight risk and a danger to the public.
     “For the record, I agree with everything in the government’s memo,” Stewart said.

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