A federal judge’s decision to dismiss charges against Cliven, Ammon and Ryan Bundy means they will likely not go to trial again on charges related to their standoff with federal agents over cattle-grazing fees. But it’s far from a vindication of their behavior.
Rather, as U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro made clear, her dismissal came not because the Bundys were right, but because the federal prosecutors had gotten so much so wrong.
The Bundys’ beef with the feds goes back decades, at least to the 1990s. During that time Cliven Bundy quit making payments on a grazing lease that allowed him to run cattle on federal land. His lease was revoked, but he continued to keep his cattle on federal land, arguing that, in fact, it belonged to the state of Nevada. He also contended that his family began using the land in the late 1800s, before the federal government claimed authority over it.
The federal government, meanwhile, controls some 87 percent of the land in Nevada, according to the Washington Post, and the Bureau of Land Management manages nearly 800 grazing allotments on it.
By the time charges stemming from the Bundy-BLM standoff in 2014 were filed, there was plenty of animosity to go around — on both sides. But that’s no excuse for federal prosecutors to — in Navarro’s words — “willfully” fail to turn over evidence to defense lawyers as the law requires. In fact, she cited six violations of the so-called Brady law. There was one in which the prosecution denied snipers were near the Bundy ranch, only to be proven wrong when evidence of their presence came to light.
None of that vindicates the views of the Bundys about federal land.