BUNKERVILLE, NV — A long-fought battle waged against Cliven Bundy reached a bittersweet end on Monday as a federal judge dismissed all charges against the Nevada rancher and his three co-defendants, accusing prosecutors of willful wrongdoing.
Citing prosecutors for “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct,” U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro ruled in favor of Bundy, his two sons and a third co-defendant on allegations that the men had led an armed rebellion against federal agents in 2014.
Calling prosecutor’s withholding of key evidence from Bundy’s legal counsel “outrageous” and “a violation of due process rights,” Navarro dismissed the charges against Bundy and the others “with prejudice,” meaning they can never be brought to trial again relating to the charges.
At issue were documents which Bundy’s legal team claimed were never provided to them relating to the case, a blatant violation of court rules.
“The court finds that the universal sense of justice has been violated,” Navarro said, before adding that a new trial would provide the prosecution with an unfair advantage.
The 71-year-old Bundy’s battle began with the federal government in 2014 after a 21-year legal dispute in which the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) obtained court orders directing Bundy to pay over $1 million in grazing fees for use of federally-owned land adjacent to Bundy’s ranch in southeastern Nevada.
The dispute led to an armed confrontation between Bundy supporters and law enforcement which went on for an extended period of time.
On February 10, 2016, Bundy was arrested by FBI officials and was later indicted for 16 federal felonies (http://lasvegas.cbslocal.com/2017/10/06/defendant-in-bundy-case-pleads-guilty-to-conspiracy/), along with Ammon and Ryan Bundy, militia leader Ryan Payne, and another co-defendant, Peter Santilli, who subsequently pled guilty to felony conspiracy to injure or impede a federal officer.
As the courtroom doors opened following Navarro’s ruling, cheers erupted from a crowd of supporters gathered outside.
Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano concurred with the judge’s ruling in the case, calling the prosecutor’s actions “extraordinary”.
“Either the government lied or [it’s actions were] so grossly negligent as to be tantamount to lying,” said Napolitano.
The court’s ruling comes less than a month after Navarro declared a mistrial in the case, citing federal prosecutors for willfully withholding critical and “potentially exculpatory” evidence from the defense. Government prosecutors had vowed to retrial.