Four alleged militia arms suppliers of the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff are facing retrial in a Nevada court after a deadlocked jury prompted a mistrial.
Eric Parker, Scott Drexler, Steven Stewart, and Ricky Lovelien are being retried on charges that they supplied the firepower in an assault against federal agents who tried to round up Bundy’s cattle from public lands in 2014. They are charged with conspiracy, extortion, threats, assault and related counts for their role in the armed standoff. If convicted of all counts, the men face a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 57 years.
A federal judge declared a mistrial April 24 after the jury said they were “hopelessly deadlocked” on conspiracy charges against the men. The jurors did convict two others, Greg Burleson and Todd Engel, on lesser accounts of obstruction of justice and interstate travel in aid of extortion, however, The Washington Times reports.
Greg Burleson, 53, of Phoenix, and Todd Engel, 49, of Boundary County, Idaho, were found guilty of obstruction of justice and interstate travel in aid of extortion stemming from the April 2014 clash over grazing rights on federal land. Burleson, who was described as an ex-FBI informant and shown in a video saying he posed as a member of a bogus film crew during the standoff, was convicted on six other counts, including threatening and assaulting a federal officer.
The new trial was scheduled to begin June 24, the same day Cliven Bundy, the militia leader in the standoff, was also supposed to appear in court.
The retrial date pushed back Bundy’s court appearance, and then a second time after the first jury for the retrial was nearly all-female which drew complaints. After extensive arguments between the prosecution and defense last week, U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro restructured the jury to replace three of the women with three men. Minority representation on the jury did not change.
“Every case is about jury selection, but this one is specifically about jury selection,” said attorney Jess Marchese, who represents defendant Eric Parker.
“Either you’re going to be OK with Eric Parker on a bridge with his gun or you’re not.
And one thing I will do is embrace that more.”
Prosecutors for the U.S. attorney’s office have tried in recent legal filings to limit what sort of evidence defense lawyers can introduce at trial. Their primary concern is to control the constitutional rights narrative.
In a motion filed last month, Nevada Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre asked the court to prevent defense lawyers from “seeking to persuade jurors to acquit … based on political beliefs or values rather than upon the evidence.”
Myhre asked for a broad ban on what represented the marrow of the defense case in the first trial. His motion sought to block testimony about First and Second Amendment rights, police conduct in the days leading up to the standoff and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval’s criticism of BLM agents’ actions prior to the standoff.
Rancher Cliven Bundy and his followers, who outnumbered the agents by 4-to-1, “demanded that officers leave and abandon the cattle and threatened use of force if the officers did not do so,” with some gunmen “taking sniper positions behind concrete barriers and aiming their assault rifles at the officers,” according to a court document.