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.