LAS VEGAS (AP) — A jury in Las Vegas convicted two men in an armed standoff that stopped government agents from rounding up cattle near Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch in 2014 but then deadlocked on federal charges against four others later Monday.
The six men were the first to be tried in the standoff, which was hailed as a victory by states’ rights advocates who want vast stretches of federal land in the U.S. West put under local control.
Their case was seen as a preview for an upcoming trial for Bundy; his eldest sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy; and two others who prosecutors have characterized as leaders.
The judge declared a mistrial for Richard Lovelien, Scott Drexler, Eric Parker and Steven Stewart and scheduled a new trial for June 26, the same day the Bundys are set to face charges in court.
Earlier, the same jury convicted Gregory Burleson, 53, of Phoenix, of eight charges, including threatening and assaulting a federal officer. Todd Engel, 49, of Boundary County, Idaho, was found guilty of obstruction and traveling across state lines in aid of extortion.
About 30 supporters gathered outside court, where Cliven Bundy’s wife, Carol, said before the mistrial that she believed the jury saw weakness in the government’s case.
“If they can’t decide, there’s doubt. If there’s doubt, there’s innocence,” she said.
The Bundys have become symbols in the long-running fight over government-owned land. The sons also were accused of leading a 41-day armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon last year. They were acquitted of all charges but kept behind bars to face trial in the earlier standoff near their father’s ranch.
The six answered a Bundy family call-to-arms three years ago in Bunkerville, Nevada, making them co-conspirators in a plan to commit a federal offense and impede or injure federal officers, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors also characterized them as the least culpable of the 17 to be tried in the case.
Jurors heard testimony and saw photos of each defendant with an assault-style rifle during the tense standoff where more than 100 protesters shouted for heavily armed federal agents to release nearly 400 cows.
The government was enforcing court orders to get Bundy’s cattle off public lands for failing to pay grazing fees.
No shots were fired. But it is illegal to brandish assault-style weapons against federal agents, Acting Nevada U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre said.
The defendants argued they came to Nevada to exercise constitutional rights of free speech and weapon possession after seeing accounts of Bundy family members met with police dogs, knocked down, stun-gunned and arrested in earlier scuffles with federal agents.
Parker was famously photographed lying on a freeway overpass, looking with his AK-47-style rifle through a seam in a concrete barrier toward agents below.
Stewart stood next to Parker with a rifle on his shoulder. Drexler lay at another seam in the barrier. Engel also was armed on the overpass.
Jurors heard that Burleson had previously been an FBI informant and saw him bragging about his role in the standoff during an interview with FBI agents posing as a documentary film crew.
A third trial for six others charged in the standoff is expected in the fall.