Two Bundy supporters convicted in Nevada, mistrial called on others

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 24, 2017 4:02 PM

By Tom James

(Reuters) - A Nevada jury found two supporters of cattle rancher Cliven Bundy guilty on Monday of charges stemming from an armed standoff with federal authorities in 2014 but deadlocked over charges against four other men.

Gregory Burleson and Todd Engel, two of six Bundy supporters on trial Monday, were convicted of obstruction of justice and interstate travel in aid of extortion in a case that came to symbolize tensions in the American West over the federal ownership of land.

Burleson also was found guilty of firearms charges and threatening and assault of a federal officer, according to Trisha Young, a spokeswoman for the Nevada District Attorney's Office.

A mistrial was declared for the other four men after jurors could not agree on verdicts, even after Judge Gloria Navarro sent them back for further deliberations. The jury also was deadlocked on additional charges against Burleson and Engel.

The unresolved charges will be the subject of a new trial, scheduled for June 26. All six men remain in custody, according to Todd Leventhal, the attorney for defendant O. Scott Drexler.

The six, who prosecutors said were associated with or had been in contact with militia groups, each face 10 counts related to the standoff at Bundy's property about 75 miles (120 km) northeast of Las Vegas.

They were charged with offenses including conspiracy against the government, conspiracy to impede a federal officer, assault, threatening and obstruction of justice.

The men were among hundreds who traveled to the ranch in April 2014 to support Bundy, whose refusal to pay $1 million in fees for grazing his cattle on federal land became a cause celebre for some on the political right.

Prosecutors described the defendants as armed, dangerous and intimidating to federal officers who were trying to enforce a court order stating that Bundy's cattle should be seized. Outgunned, authorities released the animals and left the area.

Lawyers for the six men said they posed no threat and were simply backing Bundy in a case of unfair government overreach.

Bundy and two of his sons are themselves defendants in a federal trial scheduled for later this year over the Nevada standoff.

Last October, a jury acquitted Bundy's son Ammon and of his six followers in a trial over the armed occupation of a U.S. wildlife refuge in Oregon. The occupiers cast their protest as a patriotic act of civil disobedience in opposition to U.S. government control over public lands in the West.

(Reporting by Tom James in Seattle; Editing by Patrick Enright and Bill Trott)