LAS VEGAS (AP) — Federal prosecutors in Las Vegas are asking a judge to cancel a hearing at which jailed Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy would seek to be freed pending trial on charges that he incited and led an armed standoff against government agents two years ago.
U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden and prosecutor Steven Myhre said in written court filings that a federal magistrate judge in Oregon already denied Bundy’s release following his Feb. 10 arrest at Portland International Airport, and Bundy didn’t appeal that order.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Carl Hoffman in Las Vegas is due to consider the question of whether another detention hearing should be held just ahead of Bundy’s scheduled Thursday morning detention hearing.
Bundy’s lawyer, Joel Hansen, said Wednesday he’s fighting the prosecutors’ contention that Bundy is only entitled to one detention hearing, and that he should remain in custody as a flight risk and danger to the community.
“They don’t want to let him out because he dared to challenge the federal government and said Nevada owns the land,” Hansen said. He cast Bundy, 69, as a political prisoner.
It wasn’t clear Wednesday whether Bundy’s court date would again draw protesters to the courthouse in Las Vegas. But Bundy family members Lillie Spencer and Margaret Houston said they expected supporters will turn out.
About 100 Bundy backers demonstrated last week while Bundy appeared in custody and refused to enter a plea to charges including conspiracy, assault, obstruction, weapon possession and threatening federal officers.
Hoffman entered a not-guilty plea on Bundy’s behalf.
Hansen said Bundy’s refusal amounted to a statement that he couldn’t have done anything wrong because federal law doesn’t apply.
Bundy and four of his adult sons are among 19 people in several states indicted this month on allegations that they incited and organized a gunpoint standoff that stopped federal agents from rounding up cattle near Bundy’s ranch in April 2014. Convictions could put them in prison for the rest of their lives.
Five co-defendants who were arrested in Arizona made initial appearances in custody before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen in Las Vegas, who appointed attorneys for each and postponed until Monday arraignment for one of Bundy’s adult sons, Mel Bundy. Other co-defendants are from Utah, Idaho, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and New Hampshire.
Mel Bundy’s lawyer, Lucas Gaffney, sought time to go over the 63-page, 16-count indictment and another 60-page document that prosecutors filed to support keeping Mel Bundy jailed as a flight risk and danger to the public.
Gregory Burleson, Micah McGuire, Joseph O’Shaughnessy and Jason Woods each pleaded not guilty to more than 11 charges against them. Leen noted that O’Shaugnessey and Woods lost bids for release during detention hearings in Phoenix. She scheduled detention hearings in coming days for Burleson and McGuire.
Cliven Bundy and his backers tout states’ rights and deny U.S. government authority over vast landholdings in the West, where agencies led by the Bureau of Land Management control some 85 percent of Nevada, 66 percent of Utah and 53 percent of Oregon.
The dispute has roots in the Sagebrush Rebellion, which began more than 40 years ago over grazing rights in Nevada. Calls for action have gotten louder as federal officials designate protected areas for endangered species and set aside tracts for mining, wind farms and natural gas exploration.
Bundy insists he’s entitled to let his cows roam freely over arid rangeland around his 160-acre cattle ranch and melon farm in Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
BLM officials obtained federal court orders to remove Bundy cows from the scenic and ecologically fragile Gold Butte area, but Bundy ignored them. The agency said in 2014 that Bundy owed more than $1.1 million in fees and penalties for grazing hundreds of cows illegally for about 20 years.
His arrest in Oregon came while he was on his way to visit sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy in jail. They were arrested Jan. 26 on charges that they led a 41-day armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge near Burns, Oregon. Twenty-six people face federal charges in that case, including several who also face charges in the Nevada standoff.
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