LAS VEGAS, Nev. – There won’t be a federal trial next month in Las Vegas for rancher Cliven Bundy and 18 other defendants in an armed confrontation with government officers two years ago.
In a written ruling issued following a two-hour hearing in a courtroom crowded with defendants, attorneys, U.S. marshals and audience members, U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen essentially called a May 2 trial date unrealistic.
She noted that none of the 19 defendants has received any of the evidence against him for review, and five defendants who’ve been in custody in Oregon were arraigned just last week.
Her order didn’t set a new date.
Federal prosecutors want a trial date next February, due to the number of defendants and the exceptionally large amount of evidence they need to exchange with defence attorneys.
Fourteen of the defendants say they want to exercise their right to a speedy trial.
The indictment charges conspiracy, obstruction, weapon, threats and assault charges that could get each man the equivalent of life in prison in the standoff with federal agents about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
All are currently in federal custody. Friday was the first time all appeared in one courtroom together.
Leen has yet to rule whether the case will be tracked as “complex.”
Prosecutor Steven Myhre put the amount of video to be turned over to defence attorneys at 1.4 terabytes — an amount that defence attorney Julian Gregory, representing Todd Engel, compared to 3,000 full-length Hollywood movies.
Myhre said the material includes hundreds of thousands of Facebook postings obtained by warrants, plus investigators’ reports, photos and media accounts collected since the gunpoint showdown.
The April 2014 incident pitted about 270 armed and unarmed Bundy backers against about 40 federal agents and cowboy contractors who backed down and gave up a cattle round-up near Bunkerville, Nevada.
Seven co-defendants in the Nevada case also face a federal trial in September in Oregon following their arrests in an armed occupation of a U.S. wildlife refuge earlier this year.
Myhre called it unfair to expect those seven to prepare for and defend themselves in two federal trials in separate states at the same time.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Shari Kaufman, representing Ryan Payne, a defendant in both cases, said the defendants shouldn’t be put at a disadvantage by prosecutors’ decisions about when to indict them.
“They waited almost two years to bring this case,” she said of prosecutors.