Judge dismisses all charges against Cliven Bundy and sons

A judge in Las Vegas has dismissed the case against rancher Cliven Bundy and his sons, who were involved in an armed standoff with federal authorities in 2014.

The judge cited the prosecution's "reckless disregard for [c]onstitutional obligations" in dismissing the case.  U.S. district judge Gloria Navarro accused the government of withholding evidence from the defense, saying "that the universal sense of justice has been violated."

Los Angeles Times:

The decision left federal prosecutors swallowing another defeat at the hands of a family whose defiance has become a rallying cry for Westerners who believe [that] the federal government has no business managing public land.  Four times now – in high-profile cases in Nevada and Oregon – the Bundy family and its allies have beaten the federal government in court.

For the latest showdown, supporters set up banners and signs on Las Vegas Boulevard.  One drove from Montana to provide Facebook updates for devotees of the cause.

At least 100 Bundy[-]backers filled the courtroom Monday.  Some wore shirts with American flag motifs.  Others carried pocket Constitutions in their button-down shirts.  More than a few wore cowboy boots.

Their heroes sat looking up at U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro.  Cliven Bundy, 71, wore a jailhouse jumpsuit.  His son Ryan, 44, who led a large group of supporters in prayer before entering the courtroom, removed his cowboy hat.  Another son, Ammon, 42, and a militia member, Ryan Payne, barely moved.

It was their moment.

Oh, my!  "Cowboy boots"?  "Pocket Constitutions"?  The horror!

This kind of sneering put-down of Bundy's supporters is why Donald Trump won the 2016 election.  The Times and their ilk just can't get over their smug sense of superiority.  This attitude appeared to filter down to the prosecution, who flagrantly violated the constitutional rights of citizens.

Meanwhile, the Bundys walked.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Steven Myhre wrote in his brief that the government had shared 1.5 terabytes of information with defendants and noted that it was "by far the largest review and disclosure operation in this [U.S. attorney's office's] history."

Myrhe also argued the government needed to protect some witnesses from leaks that might lead to threats, so it "culled the database with witness protection in mind."

"Unprecedented database volume and witness concerns aside, the government never let these obstacles stand in the way of diligently working to fulfill its discovery obligations," he wrote.

Navarro didn't buy it and shredded the government for a "reckless disregard for [c]onstitutional obligations."  She said she was troubled by the prosecution's tardiness in delivering information about the government's placing of surveillance cameras and snipers outside the ranch.

After the decision, Cliven Bundy emerged from an elevator at the courthouse dressed in jeans, button-down shirt[,] and gray blazer.

"I'm not used to being free, put it that way," he said.  "I've been a political prisoner for right at 700 days today.  I come into this courtroom an innocent man and I'm going to leave as an innocent man."

One thing should be made clear: the Bundys may have been on the right side of the issue but went about protesting it in a completely inappropriate and dangerous manner.  The standoff was not an act of civil disobedience.  If that had been the case, the Bundys would have turned themselves in, accepting the consequences for defying the law.  That they chose armed rebellion damages the legitimacy of their cause and makes it easy for the government to portray them as extreme redneck gun nuts. 

Legal experts across the board agreed that the prosecution had a slam-dunk case.  That the Bundys are free has nothing to do with the right or wrong of their rebellion against the government.  They got off as a result of a technicality.  The legal proceedings set no precedent, overturned no federal policy – it changed nothing.  In that sense, the Bundys' actions failed to achieve anything of significance.

The government let a minor dispute on grazing rights escalate out of control to the point that SWAT teams and snipers were employed to intimidate the Bundys.  There is fault to be found on both sides – a lesson neither side is likely to take to heart.