Jury selection began Monday for a retrial of four men accused of conspiring against the government when they joined an armed protest with Cliven Bundy on his Nevada ranch in 2014.
Eric Parker, Scott Drexler, Steven Stewart and Ricky Lovelien were present during a tense confrontation in Bunkerville between Bureau of Land Management agents who were trying to seize cattle from Bundy.
The case centers around constitutional issues including free speech and land and gun rights. The U.S. attorney’s office for the state of Nevada would not comment on pending litigation.
The retrial follows a mistrial that occurred this past April when jurors couldn’t decide on the first group of defendants in a three-tier case.
Two defendants pleaded guilty last year were found guilty during the first trial, but jurors still didn’t determine 50 of the 60 counts that were brought up leaving four men with no verdict. Prosecutors initially separated the case into three groups based on culpability with a total of 17 defendants. The first trial involved conspirators deemed the least responsible.
No shots were fired in the armed standoff, but the indictment claimed protesters pointed guns at federal agents. The federal indictment said Bundy was under a 1998 court order demanding he remove his cattle from federal lands. Bundy and his supporters said they believed the government was far too encroaching, violating their free speech and gun rights.
“The Bundy’s and their group, I see that, that’s key, but the group of protestors they’re going after so aggressively, that’s where I have trouble making the connection, “ said Ron Bamieh, a former Justice Department prosecutor who questions the federal government’s strategy.
Bamieh added there are significant political implications as a jury is chosen in this case. “There are going to be some people who are like wait these guys are white nationalists who are against the government, we don’t support that. There’s going to be other people who are going to say no, these are patriots who are opposing the federal government that is overreaching completely and limiting these other people rights.”
Cliven Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan, and two other defendants are due for trial later this year. Prosecutors phased out separate trials since it would be logistically impossible to try 17 people at once.