LAS VEGAS (CN) — A federal jury Tuesday began deliberating the fate of four men who joined Cliven Bundy in an armed standoff with federal officers who tried, unsuccessfully, to round up cattle that Bundy had grazed for years on federal land.
Bundy claimed before and after the April 2014 armed standoff near Bunkerville, Nevada, that the federal government has no right to federal land.
A jury of eight men and seven women began deliberating late Tuesday after hearing closing arguments by federal prosecutors and attorneys for defendants Scott Drexler, Steven Stewart, Eric Parker and Richard Lovelien.
Each faces more than 50 years in prison on 10 felony counts of conspiring to use firearms to assault and extort the Bureau of Land Management from rounding up Bundy’s cattle.
The BLM was enforcing a federal court order to confiscate up to 1,000 of Bundy’s cattle grazing on federally controlled lands in Nevada, when the standoff began around noon on April 12, 2014.
The BLM says Bundy owes $3 million in 20 years of unpaid grazing fees, and obtained a court order to confiscate his cattle.
After four weeks of testimony, Assistant U.S. District Attorney Nadia Ahmed showed the jury photos of defendants wearing military-style garb, carrying military-style rifles and taking up tactical positions on a freeway overlooking the BLM’s remote command post in a desert wash.
One photo showed Parker lying prone on a freeway overpass, wearing a black tactical vest and apparently looking through the scope of a military-style rifle with its barrel placed between the gap of two concrete roadside barriers.
“The pointing helps to understand their intent,” Ahmed said. “You don’t aim at what you aren’t prepared to shoot at.”
Ahmed said the four men attended a morning rally that day, during which Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie told Bundy’s supporters that the BLM had agreed to stop the roundup and would leave.
After Gillespie spoke, the video shows Bundy demanding that Gillespie disarm the BLM and use bulldozers to tear down the entrance to Red Rock National Park. Bundy gave the sheriff an hour to comply with his demands.
After an hour, the video shows Bundy telling his supporters to go to the BLM roundup site and open the gates so his cattle could roam freely onto public lands.
Ahmed told the jury the four defendants, after hearing Bundy, armed themselves and traveled 5 miles to the roundup area.
There, Ahmed said, they took up “tactically superior positions” over the roundup area, where prosecution witnesses said they felt threatened by the men and their guns.
After five days of deliberations in April, a federal jury hung on the 10 charges against the men.
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro declared a mistrial and ordered the retrial.
That jury did find co-defendants Richard Burleson guilty on eight of 10 counts and Todd Engel guilty on two counts. Neither was found guilty on conspiracy charges.
Navarro in July sentenced Burleson to 87 years in prison. Engel awaits sentencing.
Cliven Bundy and four co-defendants, including two of his sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, are to go to trial about a month after the jury delivers its verdict.
A final group of six defendants is scheduled for trial 30 days after the conclusion of Cliven Bundy’s trial.