BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It took nearly two years, but Nevada’s Cliven Bundy and four others “were indicted by [a] federal grand jury … on 16 felony charges related to the armed assault against federal law enforcement officers that occurred in the Bunkerville, Nev. area on April 12, 2014,” according to a Press Release issued by the Department of Justice Attorney’s Office, District of Nevada.
Back in 2014, Bundy and his family rallied hundreds of armed like-minded folks to his side in a face off against government agents causing the out strategized and out-smarted U.S. Bureau of Land Management to back down and withdraw. “The BLM's mistakes are now playing into the government's theory in the extortion and assault case against Bundy and his sons, Ammon and Ryan, according to Kathleen Bliss, a former longtime federal prosecutor,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently reported.
"Prosecutors are using this to show the conspiracy," said Bliss, who prosecuted organized crime and domestic terrorism cases. "This wasn't just a group that kind of showed up and got together. They definitely had a system in place, and they were organized to meet a certain goal."
As I wrote in late-April 2014, “While many following his story wondered what this government-disdaining Nevada-based rancher -- who has been illegally grazing his cattle on federal land and who marshaled armed militia forces to engage in a standoff with federal agents -- was all about, America's right wing, especially the crew at Fox News, and conservative radio talk show hosts, were quick to brand Bundy a courageous leader of a New Sagebrush Rebellion.”
Bundy’s instant hero status quickly faded when the New Sagebrush Rebellion hero started spouting such racist views about African Americans that even his most confident conservative media admirers forsook him.
“The rule of law has been reaffirmed with these charges,” said U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden of the recent indictment. “Persons who use force and violence against federal law enforcement officers who are enforcing court orders, and nearly causing catastrophic loss of life or injury to others, will be brought to justice.”
“This indictment sends a resounding message to those who wish to participate in violent acts that our resolve to pursue them and enforce the law remains unwavering,” said Laura Bucheit, Special Agent in Charge for the FBI in Nevada.
The defendants, Cliven D. Bundy, 69, of Bunkerville, Nev., Ryan C. Bundy, 43, of Mesquite, Nev., Ammon E. Bundy, 40, of Emmet, Idaho, Ryan W. Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Mont., and Peter T. Santilli, Jr., 50, of Cincinnati, Ohio, are currently in custody in Oregon and their arraignments have yet to be set.
Bundy was arrested in Portland after he flew in to support his sons at the tail end of the recently ended 41-day standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge's headquarters in Harney County, Oregon. “A Federal court judge has ordered … Cliven Bundy to be extradited back to … Nevada, where he will answer to federal charges,” CNN reported.
According to the press release, the five men “are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, one count of conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer, four counts of using and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, two counts of assault on a federal officer, two counts of threatening a federal law enforcement officer, three counts of obstruction of the due administration of justice, two counts of interference with interstate commerce by extortion, and one count of interstate travel in aid of extortion. The indictment also alleges five counts of criminal forfeiture which upon conviction would require forfeiture of property derived from the proceeds of the crimes totaling at least $3 million, as well as the firearms and ammunition possessed and used on April 12, 2014.”
The maximum penalties for the charges are steep:
-- “Conspiracy to Commit an Offense Against the U.S. – 5 years, $250,000 fine”
-- “Conspiracy to Impede and Injure a Federal Law Enforcement Officer – 6 years, $250,000 fine
-- Assault on a Federal Law Enforcement Officer – 20 years, $250,000 fine”
-- “Threatening a Federal Law Enforcement Officer – 10 years, $250,000 fine”
-- “Use and Carry of a Firearm in Relation to a Crime of Violence – 5 years minimum and consecutive”
-- “Obstruction of the Due Administration of Justice - 10 years, $250,000 fine”
-- “Interference with Interstate Commerce by Extortion - 20 years, $250,000 fine”
-- “Interstate Travel in Aid of Extortion – 20 years, $250,000 fine”
Meanwhile, Bundy’s two sons, Ryan and Ammon, were leaders of the recently concluded takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
Responding to his father’s situation, Ammon Bundy said in a message released by his attorneys that "This is just a continuation of government trying to protect its own power, government taking land that does not belong to them from the people.”
According to a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that has been tracking hate groups for a long time, there was a 14 percent spike in the number of such groups last year. It appears that anti-government “patriot groups” were no doubt emboldened by the Bundy family and supporters forcing federal officials to stand down in April 2014 may have sparked that growth. Now that he and his two sons are under indictment it will be interesting to see whether anti-government groups continue to be motivated to action.