The Endangered Species Act lead to the governments action of reducing Cliven’s legal grazing from 152 to 89 head of cattle. But In order to continue complying with the requirement of “beneficial use” for his water rights, Cliven had to have all the cattle using the water. Complying to the new rules BLM was imposing would, in effect, cancel out a part of his water rights that he had acquired from the state of Nevada. Whipple told how the other 52 Southern Nevada ranchers that complied with BLM’s new permit rules were all regulated out of business.
The Bundy trial in Las Vegas, Nevada is now underway, the list of potential witnesses is well over one thousand. The rules of the court exclude all the Bundy family and supporters that are on that potential witness list from being in the courtroom during any part of the trial, until after their own testimony has been given. Yet the courtroom was packed on November 14th and 15th. The press took up about two rows of the courtroom benches, and had come from across the nation.
Cliven Bundy Trial – Opening Statements
The opening statements are basically supposed to inform the jury about what to expect in evidence from each party and what that party’s interpretation is regarding that evidence. For the most part, that plan was followed. The events of the BLM round-up of Cliven Bundy’s cattle, and the protest that followed, was presented by the prosecutor, and then a legal representative of each defendant, with the exception of Ammon Bundy and his legal team. The opening statement for defendant Ammon Bundy is reserved for after the prosecution rests it’s case, probably a month or two from now. Ammon Bundy’s lawyers chose to waive their openings until prosecutors conclude their presentation of evidence, noting they’re still waiting for requested evidence involving FBI emails.
Prosecutor Steven Myhre’s Opening Statement
The first opening statement for the USA v Bundy Tier 1 trial was given by prosecutor Steven Myhre. He outlined Cliven Bundy’s 25 year history of noncompliance and nonpayment connected with grazing his cattle. Then Myrhre showed a timeline of all the events leading to the Bunkerville Standoff characterizing the Bundy family as the aggressors using militia and long guns to intimidate and impede federal officers. He showed a list of the felony charges made against the defendants.
Attorney Bret Whipple’s Opening Statement for Defendant Cliven Bundy
Bret Whipple started his Opening Statement with the Nevada statehood in 1864, followed shortly by the 1877 founding of the Bundy’s Ranch by Cliven’s maternal grandfather. He went on to mention the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, and then the designation of the endangered desert tortoise in 1989. The Endangered Species Act lead to the governments action of reducing Cliven’s legal grazing from 152 to 89 head of cattle. But In order to continue complying with the requirement of “beneficial use” for his water rights, Cliven had to have all the cattle using the water. Complying to the new rules BLM was imposing would, in effect, cancel out a part of his water rights that he had acquired from the state of Nevada. Whipple told how the other 52 Southern Nevada ranchers that complied with BLM’s new permit rules were all regulated out of business.
Whipple went through the same basic events that prosecutor Steven Myhre had outlined that lead up to the standoff. In Whipple’s statement, the BLM was the inflexible aggressor. He showed video’s that Myhre had already shown, but explained the BLM dump truck Ammon stopped had water pipes and infrastructure from the water system belonging to the Bundy’s. Destroying the water system went way beyond the scope of the governments court order to impound cattle.
Whipple showed the arrest of Dave Bundy, the body slam of Margaret Huston and the Tasering of Ammon. He explained how the cattle roundup had been called off by government officials the evening before the protest. The government is claiming that they were threatened and forced to abandon their duties on April 12th, when in reality, the orders to abandon the roundup were already given the day before. This leaves the criminal charges without foundation.
Whipple was also able to inform the jury of several facts that had not been disclosed before. The government had set up a confidential Forward Operating Base as part of a Joint Terrorism Task Force team of FBI SWAT agents less than two miles from the Bundy home in April 2014.
Ryan Bundy Pro Se Legal Representation – Opening Statement
Ryan Bundy’s opening statement stunned the courtroom. On the large screen monitors scattered through the courtroom, he displayed a picture of himself and his wife Angela with their eight children. He then told his audience about growing up on the ranch and their family values. He explained to the jury about a favorite phrase his father used, “whatever it takes”, and how, to them the phrase meant the determination needed to complete the job. Ryan told the jury that the prosecution was going to tell them that “whatever it takes” was a threat Cliven Bundy had made against the government.
Ryan told the jury that 53 ranchers were in the area when BLM first started managing the land. The ranchers were forced to sign grazing permits that called for cutting their herds. His father wouldn’t sign it because his water rights would also be cut permanently. The other ranchers were gradually regulated out of business.
Ryan explained that Cliven Bundy’s grazing rights are a property right owned by his father. BLM designated grazing as a privilege. Ryan explained that if you own something, your rights to the use of that property are more than if you just have a privilege. A renter that only has a privilege must ask for permission to make changes to the landlords property.
Ryan explained that this court case is no longer about cows and grazing rights. It is about freedom. If we cannot use our land as we want, we are not free. He warned the courtroom; “Our fight for freedom is not overseas; it is in our front yard, in our backyard.”
Ryan talked of militias and how they protect the people from a tyrannical government. In our country’s history our militia’s were defined as all able bodied men from 17 to 45 years old, and at another time, from 17 to 64 years old. Men were automatically considered as being in the militia. Ryan Bundy told the jury that the militia-men who showed up at Bundy Ranch were hero’s. Ryan Bundy told the jury that his co-defendant was a hero. Pointing at Ryan Payne, Bundy said “Ryan Payne saved my life.” Ryan Bundy also explained to the jury that the first two Bundy protest trials had been prevented from getting to the truth.
Ryan Bundy told of government snipers that surrounded the Bundy home, He told of how his brother Dave was thrown to the ground and arrested for taking pictures of those snipers, he told of the incident on April 6th when Margaret Huston was thrown to the ground, and Ammon was attacked by a dog and tasered multiple times.
He promised to continue to do “whatever it takes” to protect his rights and urged jurors to stand up for freedom. He then invited the jury to visit his family’s ranch when the trial is over, and told of his love for this land. Ryan said it is the jury that protects the people when the government goes to far. Ryan Bundy said “being here in this courtroom is doing “whatever it takes”.
Reactions to Ryan Bundy’s Opening Statement
The spectators were amazed by the skill of the orator before them. He stood with a mix of humility, earnestness, and passion to give a statement that was at least an hour in length. He did so without looking at a single note. He stayed calm and deliberate in front of the 12 men and women who will probably be deciding whether he will spend the rest of his life in prison.
The court-watchers that had witnessed the other Bundy trials were shocked by how much information Ryan Bundy had just given the jury. The judge not once tried to stop the proceedings and the prosecution did not make a single objection. Ryan had told the basis of the Bundy side of the Bunkerville Protest.
In the first two trials, Todd Engel had lost his right to represent himself for the rest of the first trial by merely saying the name of the disgraced BLM’s Special Agent in Charge, Daniel Love. In the 2nd trial, Eric Parker was thrown off the witness stand for saying he had “looked up and to his right” in his effort to describe his actions without saying the court banned reference to the government snipers. Ryan Bundy had been allowed to cover multiple lines of evidence that were never permitted in the previous two trials.
The jury was captivated by Ryan’s statement. They seemed very thoughtful and a few might have even smiled or nodded to a few of Ryan’s remarks.
Ryan’s description of how government over-regulation has caused so many ranches to go out of business brings to mind other examples of overzealous agencies that cause the small businesses to fail. How many dairy and food processing company’s are forced to close because they cannot afford all new stainless steel equipment demanded by FDA? How many people are kept from going into business because of excessive requirements to get a license or a permit? How far do we let it go before we say “no more”? When do we take a stand? What role are we going to allow our courts to take once a stand has been made?
It is obvious to all court-watchers that this trial will be fought totally different from the previous trials. The judge’s attitude in regards to the defendants has seemingly changed from hostile to caring. The prosecution is taking a much weaker stance. The defense team is working together brilliantly. The rules of what evidence may be presented by the defense has changed from a near complete denial of all defenses, to almost the complete story of what happened. Misconduct of the Special Agent Daniel Love and other government officials at the protest is still being scrutinized in an effort to unseal more evidence of wrongdoing.