By Ken Ritter
LAS VEGAS — Prosecutors deliberately scuttled the 2017 trial of a Nevada rancher and several others involving an armed standoff against U.S. officials, so the government shouldn’t be allowed to revive the case, an attorney told an appeals court set to hear arguments in coming weeks.
Attorney Alyssa Bell, representing co-defendant Ryan Bundy, said Wednesday that prosecutors’ misdeeds forced defendants’ attorneys to ask the judge to dismiss the case midway through proceedings.
A retrial would violate the Fifth Amendment ban against being tried twice for the same offense, she said.
“Retrying the case would only advantage the government by allowing them to strengthen their witnesses’ testimony based on the knowledge gained from information … revealed thus far,” Bell said in an Aug. 21 court filing to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich in Las Vegas declined to comment outside court. A March 23 hearing was set in Las Vegas.
Larry Klayman, an attorney for codefendant Cliven Bundy, said Tuesday he expects appellate judges will uphold Navarro’s dismissal of the case that the lawyer called “an unjust and political prosecution fatally infected with extreme prosecutorial misconduct.”
In his court filing, Klayman branded the government appeal as a “HailMary” effort to shield the U.S. attorneys who handled the Bundy case from “career-ending sanctions, if not … criminal prosecutions.”
Ammon Bundy and Montana civilian militia leader Ryan Payne also are named in the appeal. Cliven Bundy is the father of Ammon and Ryan Bundy.
Navarro pulled the plug on the trial in December 2017, ripping prosecutors and governmental agents for “intentional abdication of … responsibility,” “flagrant misconduct” and “deliberate attempts to mislead and distort the truth.”
Navarro said the government purposely failed to disclose to defense lawyers evidence that federal agents had snipers and cameras around the Bundy home ahead of the April 2014 standoff in rural Bunkerville.
Hundreds of protesters and armed Bundy family supporters forced federal Bureau of Land Management officials, FBI agents and contract cowboys to give up enforcing court orders to round up Bundy cattle.
Cliven Bundy, four sons and 14 other people were indicted in 2016 on charges including conspiracy and assaulting federal officers that could have gotten them life in prison.
Bundy, 73, maintains the federal government has no authority over state lands. He refused for decades to pay government grazing fees for his cows in what is now Gold Butte National Monument, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) northeast of Las Vegas.