They’re off the hook again, at least for now.
Yesterday, a federal judge declared a mistrial in the government’s case against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and Ryan Payne, a militia leader from Montana.
The government claimed the four violated several laws during an armed standoff in 2014 in which federal agents attempted, unsuccessfully, to impound cattle owned by Cliven Bundy that were grazing on federal lands without a permit.
During the confrontation, protestors were photographed pointing rifles from a highway overpass at armed federal agents below. The defendants faced multiple charges, including conspiracy and threatening and impeding a federal officer.
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro criticized federal prosecutors for missing deadlines and failing to disclose evidence that could have been helpful to the defendants.
Navarro pointed to more than 3,000 pages of records from the BLM and the FBI that prosecutors turned over to defense attorneys after an Oct. 1 deadline had passed. Some of those documents allude to surveillance cameras on hilltops around Bundy’s ranch, which prosecutors had previously said didn’t exist.
Yesterday’s court ruling comes about a year after a federal jury in Portland, Ore., acquitted Ammon and Ryan Bundy of charges stemming from their participation in the armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in early 2016.
Navarro did not dismiss the case outright, but could do so at a Jan. 8 hearing. Prosecutors did not say whether they would seek to retry the case.
“This is obviously my opinion,” Ammon Bundy said after the mistrial declaration, “(but) I don’t think we’re going to another trial.”