LAS VEGAS (CN) – The federal government on Monday rested its case against six co-defendants accused of endangering and extorting Bureau of Land Management staff during an armed standoff at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada.
Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre on Monday rested the federal government’s weeks-long case against six co-defendants in the first of three scheduled trials. The men currently on trial include Richard Lovelian, Todd Engel, Gregory Burleson, Eric Parker, O. Scott Drexler and Steven Stewart.
They are accused of helping Bundy to intimidate and run off BLM officials during an Aril 2014 standoff near his Ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada.
The trial began on Feb. 10 and is expected to last several more weeks as defense attorneys call upon more witnesses.
The BLM says Bundy owes $3 million in unpaid grazing fees and tried to round up some 400 head of his cattle that were grazing on federal land.
Bundy, who is not party to the current trial but is in jail awaiting his own trial, contends the federal government has no right to own or control land in Nevada.
He and his supporters, including the six co-defendants now on trial, stopped the BLM’s efforts during an armed standoff on April 12, 2014.
The six on trial are among 17 facing 15 felony charges that – if convicted – could land them in prison for up to 80 years. Bundy also faces a potential $3 million fine, and two others have already pleaded guilty to similar charges.
Myhre based the government’s case mostly on the testimonies of dozens of law enforcement and BLM officials, who generally said they felt threatened and intimidated by Bundy’s armed supporters.
Defense attorneys contend the BLM and law enforcement were the original aggressors and interfered with a peaceful assembly and protest.
Myhre portrayed the six men as gunmen who were ready to kill to stop the BLM from enforcing a federal court order to seize Bundy’s cattle for grazing on federal land without permits.
Las Vegas attorney Richard Tanasi, who represents Stewart, earlier likened the efforts of the six to the Boston Tea Party and the civil rights marches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Myhre said none of the six defendants knew Bundy or had an interest in his cattle. Instead, he said they showed up to stop the federal government from enforcing a court order to seize Bundy’s cattle that were on federal lands.
The defense began making its case Monday afternoon.