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Vol. 81/No. 33      September 11, 2017

(feature article)

Jury finds supporters of Cliven Bundy ‘not guilty’

A jury in Las Vegas, Nevada, Aug. 22 refused to find Richard Lovelien, Steven Stewart, Scott Drexler and Eric Parker guilty on frame-up charges stemming from a 2014 protest of ranchers and supporters on Cliven Bundy’s family ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada. The four were among participants demanding release of 400 of Bundy’s cattle that had been seized by the Bureau of Land Management in a dispute over grazing rights on federal lands.

Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan, and others have been imprisoned without trial on related charges since February 2016. Government officials had hoped to win convictions here to set a precedent to use against their main targets.

But this was the second time the prosecution put the four on trial and failed to get a jury to convict them. Charges included “assault on a federal officer,” “conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States,” and “interstate travel in aid of extortion.” A mistrial had been declared in an earlier trial in April when that jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict for acquittal.

After four days of jury deliberations, Lovelien and Stewart were found not guilty on all 10 charges they faced. The 12-person jury also ruled Drexler and Parker not guilty on most of the same charges. The jurors said they were not able to reach a verdict on four of the charges against Parker and two against Drexler.

“The jury was 11 to one for ‘not guilty’ on the last four charges,” Shawna Cox told the Militant in a phone interview Aug. 28. She is a supporter of ranchers’ rights to graze cattle on federal lands and participated in protests last year at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

The new verdicts “stunned a courtroom full of the defendants’ supporters, many of whom broke into applause after Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro ordered Lovelien and Stewart freed immediately,” The Associated Press reported.

“What we have here is a win,” Parker’s wife Andrea told supporters and the media outside the courtroom.

“The acquittal was really terrific because the jurors were able to see how tyrannical the judge was,” Cox, who lives in Kanab, Utah, told the Militant.

Judge Navarro made every effort to hamstring the defense in the recent trial. She barred defense attorneys “from referencing constitutional rights to freely assemble and to bear arms” and “from mentioning alleged misconduct or excessive force by law enforcement” during the Bundy ranch protest in 2014.

In addition, the judge denied the defense the right to present five witnesses they called to testify on their behalf.

In protest of the rigged proceedings, defense attorneys waived closing arguments.

The day after the verdicts, Acting District Attorney Steven Myhre announced that he will prosecute Drexler and Parker for yet a third time on the charges the jury didn’t reach a verdict on. “There is no justice system here, it’s all a railroad job,” said Cox.

Drexler and Parker were released from jail by Navarro, where — like the Bundys, Lovelien, Stewart and the other defendants — they have been held for the past 18 months. But Las Vegas TV station KSNV said the two “will be monitored by a federal officer” and “aren’t allowed to be around any firearms or other dangerous weapons, and they aren’t allowed to have contact with any of the case’s named victims or witnesses, just to name a few.”

The third trial against Drexler and Parker was set for Sept. 25, which will push back even further the trials of Cliven Bundy and the other defendants.

Dennis Richter and Bernie Senter contributed to this article.  
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