Some think that the Bundy’s got off scot-free when U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro dismissed cases against Cliven and sons Ammon and Ryan and co-defendant Ryan Payne and accused their prosecutors — the government — of willfully withholding evidence from Bundy lawyers in violation of the federal Brady rule, thus denying them due process. She referred to it as “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct” and set the defendants free “with prejudice,” preventing the government from trying them again in this case.
Navarro was referring to some 3,300 pages of evidence showing, among other things, government surveillance of the Bundy’s on the ranch days before the standoff and FBI logs documenting their activity at the ranch in the days prior to, both supporting the Bundy claim of self-defense. The government's having tactical teams and multiple video cameras positioned around the ranch certainly justifies this argument. Also excluded were records showing the presence of government snipers during the standoff, necessitating some few Bundy supporters taking positions with their rifles aimed at the snipers should agents open fire on the Bundys.
So what price did the Bundy’s pay for defending the Constitution and freedom? Cliven Bundy certainly felt it high: "I have been a political prisoner for more than 700 days."
Let’s review the story of Bundy justice.
Ranchers throughout the West had been grazing their cattle on open land for centuries before the land was made territories in a process emanating from the Articles of Confederation preparatory for statehood when population requirements, defined by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, were met. Once met, land within a state boundary belonged to the new state. Under the Constitution there exists no provision for federal land within state boundaries outside of Article I, Section 8; thus, no federal Bureau of Land Management. This is the constitutional and Bundy position. The federal government found it profitable to withhold 87.7 percent of Nevada from the state and the government's federal courts justified this position. The Bundy’s did not, and continued to graze their cattle where their forefathers had always grazed them without paying federal fees.
The BLM began to slaughter and bury Bundy cattle and confiscated hundreds more to sell to pay the federal fees. They also placed numerous FBI and BLM agents on Bundy property without their permission to watch family movements. Word got out and hundreds arrived to aid the Bundy’s in keeping their cattle. Agents created First Amendment areas for those opposing their actions and some few voicing it in non-designated areas were thrown to the ground, tased and threatened with arrest. The alarm went out. The cattle were released when armed neighbors and friends, some from out of state, outnumbered agents.
Next Ammon and Ryan Bundy assisted Oregonians in their land issues — the federal government claiming 52.6 percent of Oregon's land — and, in particular, the Hammonds who also suffered abuse by the BLM when a fire on their property accidentally burned adjacent BLM land. The Hammonds served time for the fire and were a year later rearrested by federal agents when a federal judge concluded that they had not served enough time — double jeopardy. Bundy boys participated in the 40-day take-over of the then-vacant Malheur National Wildlife Refuge facility in protest.
While driving to Burns, Oregon, to talk to the sheriff and negotiate with agents with a view toward mitigating the occupation, the truck driven by Lavoy Finicum was fired upon. Ryan was wounded in the arm and, when Finicum exited the truck with his hands up, he was shot three times in the back and killed (autopsy report verifies Finicum was shot in the back). The three passengers endured almost five minutes of gunfire before they were allowed to exit, believing that agents would also kill them. A recording made from inside the truck includes the occupants begging God to save them.
Eight months later in a Portland jail cell, Ryan was awakened at 5:30 a.m. and taken to a “secret” hearing in the basement with no time to contact his lawyer. On the way, he was beaten by three guards and suffered a dislocated wrist and broken thumb and his head was bruised and cut open. Presumably, the prosecution wanted the evidence of the bullet received while Ryan was approaching the FBI roadblock removed. With no witnesses other than themselves, they could contest the vehicle being fired upon prior to the roadblock. According to Ryan’s wife, Angie, they would not allow pictures of the procedure and no paperwork regarding the removal would be given him. His refusal to agree to the “secret surgery” was the probable reason for the beating. On October 27, 2016, the Bundy boys were acquitted of all charges with respect to the Wildlife Refuge facility occupation, but the killing of Finicum remains outstanding.
Finally, Bundy justice must include the cost of litigation, presumably thousands, and prison time already served for several of at least a year and a half. The separation from family and friends and the cost of motel, travel and meals for the family to see their incarcerated husbands and fathers weighs in somewhere. And, how does one put a number on the emotional price all participants paid until January 8, thinking that family members and friends are more likely to be incarcerated the rest of their lives than not.
I told Ryan that I am willing to write about freedom and the Constitution, even suffer to some extent; but he was beaten, wounded and risked being locked up for decades to defend it.
Harold W. Pease, Ph.D., is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He taught history and political science from that perspective for more than 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Editor's Note: An FBI agent at the Finicum shooting has been indicted in connection to lying about his role in the stop in which Finicum was killed. The former FBI agent has been accused of firing two shots at Finicum or his truck and then lying about it afterward.