LAS VEGAS – Federal authorities rounded up 12 people in five states on Thursday, bringing to 19 the number of defendants facing conspiracy, assault and threats charges in a 2014 armed standoff over grazing cattle on U.S. land near renegade cattleman Cliven Bundy's ranch in southern Nevada.
Arrests of alleged co-conspirators in Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Oklahoma and New Hampshire came after a federal grand jury in Las Vegas expanded an indictment already filed against Bundy. It also names two adult Bundy sons and five other men already in federal custody following the end of a nearly six-week armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon.
Court documents accuse the men of leading more than 200 followers into an armed confrontation that forced federal Bureau of Land Management agents and contract cowboys to abandon an effort to corral and remove Bundy cattle from federal lands where he was accused of letting them graze for decades without paying federal fees.
At the family home in Bunkerville, Nevada, Cliven Bundy's wife, Carol, acknowledged that her husband and sons Ammon, Ryan, Melvin and David Bundy were in federal custody. The mother of 14 adult children pleaded for prayer and echoed her husband's call to fight government overreach.
"I truly believe this is showing the federal government thinks they have unlimited power over we the people," Carol Bundy told The Associated Press in a brief telephone interview. "What kind of government do we have?"
"This is going to be won in the court of public opinion," she added. "When we the people make a stand, that's when we'll win."
Bundy supporters Ryan Payne of Montana, Peter Santilli Jr. of Cincinnati, and Brian Cavalier and Blaine Cooper, both of Arizona, were also already in custody. They were arrested Jan. 26 during the occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon.
The arrests in the Nevada case came the same day U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in Portland, Oregon, that additional charges would be filed "very soon" in the 41-day standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. She didn't provide specifics.
The nine-count indictment in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas is similar to one filed Feb. 11, the day after Cliven Bundy was arrested as he arrived in Portland to visit Ammon and Ryan Bundy in jail.
The brothers were among 16 defendants who pleaded not guilty last week to federal conspiracy charges. A total of 25 people are charged in the occupation. The occupiers had said they wanted the U.S. government to relinquish public lands to locals and free two Oregon ranchers who they say were wrongly imprisoned for setting fires.
In the Nevada armed showdown case, charges include conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States; threatening a federal law enforcement officer; obstruction of justice; attempting to impede or injure a federal law enforcement officer; and several firearms charges.
The indictment alleges co-defendants recruited, trained and provided support to armed men and other Bundy followers during a dispute over more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees and penalties. Officials say the fees still haven't been paid.
It identifies Cliven Bundy as the leader and beneficiary of the conspiracy, and Ammon and Ryan Bundy as leaders and organizers of about 200 gunmen and followers.
The result: A picket line of self-styled Bundy militia perched on a high Interstate 15 bridge, pointing military-style AR-15 and AK-47 weapons down at BLM agents and cowboys herding cattle up a ravine to a corral. Dozens of woman and children were in the possible crossfire.
The federal officials backed down, and they released about 400 cows that had been rounded up.
Documents submitted following the Thursday arrest of Gerald "Jerry" DeLemus in Rochester, New Hampshire, said that DeLemus "organized and led armed patrols and security checkpoints" for several following weeks around the Bundy ranch in southern Nevada.
DeLemus was running for Strafford County sheriff in New Hampshire when he was arrested. He appeared in custody in federal court in Concord, New Hampshire, for a detention hearing that was postponed until Monday. His wife, Republican state Rep. Susan DeLemus, said she planned to hire a lawyer for his defense.
Federal officials identified others arrested Thursday as: Blaine Cooper of Humboldt, Arizona; Eric J. Parker and Steven A. Stewart, both of Hailey, Idaho; O. Scott Drexler of Challis, Idaho; Richard R. Lovelien of Westville, Oklahoma; Todd C. Engel of Boundary County, Idaho; Gregory P. Burleson of Phoenix; Joseph D. O'Shaughnessy of Cottonwood, Arizona; and Micah L. McGuire and Jason D. Woods both of Chandler, Arizona.