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John L. Smith: Another Bundy Trial Surprise?

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(AP Photo/John Locher, FIle)

In this Feb. 6, 2017, file photo, supporters, and critics of defendants on trial for charges relating to a 2014 ranch standoff at the federal courthouse gather in Las Vegas.

In less than a year, defendants have won in court against the federal government trying to convict them for their part in a 2014 standoff with federal agents at Bundy Ranch near Bunkerville.

This week the jury acquitted two of four men. They could not reach verdicts on all of the charges for two other defendants. Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre told Judge Gloria Navarro Wednesday he would retry Eric Parker and Scott Drexler on those lesser charges.

John L. Smith, contributor to Nevada Public Radio, has been following the standoff trials for months. He was there when the verdicts were announced Wednesday.

“It was a real set back for the prosecution, for the U.S. Attorney’s office,” Smith said.

Smith said Myhre asked the judge to not let Parker and Drexler out of custody. 

“Watching Steve Myhre in court, he is extremely focused. He was angry yesterday,” he said.

Myhre called the defendants crowards for hiding behind barriers and bridges during the standoff. Smith said Myhre "laid it on thick" in an attempt to persuade Judge Navarro. It didn't work. She let the two men return to Idaho on their own recognisance with restrictions.

Some people believed the case might be easy for the prosecution with so many videos, pictures and eyewitness testimony about the incident in Bunkerville in April of 2014. Smith said the "evidence cut both ways in many ways," noting the biggest hurdle for the prosecution.

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“There were no shots fired. There were no injuries committed. Although the testimony by law enforcement at some points was dramatic there was also room for doubt of just how concerned for their own safety these law enforcement officers were," he said.

Smith said it is hard to get a conviction on 'threatening an officer' if the officers themselves don't look overly concerned. 

The latest twist in the trial means the "main event" will be pushed back again. Several defendants, including ranch owner Cliven Bundy and his sons, have yet to stand trial. The prosecution considers those men to be the "leaders" of the conspiracy. 

"I would expect that they’ll go to trial before the first of the year," Smith said.  

Guests

John L. Smith, contributor, Nevada Public Radio

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