Judge declares mistrial in case of Nevada rancher’s standoff with federal government

A federal judge declared a mistrial Wednesday in the case involving Cliven Bundy and two of his sons after she found that prosecutors “willfully” failed to turn over evidence related to an armed standoff three years ago.

U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro pointed to several violations of the Brady rule — which requires prosecutors to disclose evidence that could be favorable to a defendant. She then called in jurors and dismissed them.

“It was not possible to go forward with the case,” Navarro told the jurors.

The ruling marked yet another setback for federal prosecutors, who have struggled to obtain convictions against the Bundy family and its supporters. The cases have become a rallying point for those who believe the federal government has overstepped its authority by controlling public lands operated by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

A spokeswoman with the U.S. attorney’s office said it had no comment on Navarro’s decision.

Prosecutors have the opportunity to retry the case, and the judge told both sides to submit briefs by Dec. 29. Navarro told the packed courtroom she would also rule on whether it would be a mistrial with prejudice. That decision would effectively end the possibility of a new trial for Bundy, sons Ammon and Ryan and supporter Ryan Payne.

The federal government alleged that Bundy and his two sons escalated tensions after refusing court orders to remove cattle from public lands — ultimately leading to an armed standoff with federal law enforcement officials in April 2014 outside Bunkerville, Nev.

The four defendants were charged with threatening a federal officer, carrying and using a firearm and engaging in conspiracy — all felony counts that could send them to prison for decades.

The government was removing cattle after Cliven Bundy had refused to pay grazing fees to the BLM dating back to the 1990s. The standoff ended after federal authorities backed down, saying they feared for their lives. About 400 Bundy supporters, many with guns, took part in the standoff. The incident briefly forced the closure of a segment of Interstate 15 near Mesquite.

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