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Cliven Bundy Finally Has His Day In Court

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The Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville

The long-awaited trial of Cliven, Ammon and Ryan Bundy and Ryan Payne began Tuesday morning in U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro’s courtroom.

Nevada Public Radio contributor John L. Smith has been watching this trial and others connected to the 2014 standoff.

The trial was supposed to start last week, but he said it was delayed as Judge Navarro ruled on some issues, including questions about surveillance cameras that were set up by the Bureau of Land Management to overlook the militia's camping area. 

The prosecution said the cameras provided a live look at the camp, but the cameras weren't recording.

Navarro ordered the prosecution to look for those recordings. If the recordings are found, it will be up to the judge to decide what that means.

"The judge will have to decide whether that is worthy of a delay to analyze the material, whether that is an egregious move by the prosecution, whether they did that on purpose to hide something," Smith said, "The judge could weigh certain decision, including, potentially, to dismiss the case."

Another big question that has been before the court has been whether the defendants should be able to post bail, or at the very least, be allowed to move to a halfway house.

Initially, the judge ruled against that for the simple reason that she felt they posed a danger to the community, Smith said: “Because of all of the allegations, the 16 felonies, that carry decades and decades in prison if convicted that makes them a danger to the community."

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Editor's Update: Judge Navarro did change her mind, however, in the case of Ryan Bundy. He was allowed to go to a halfway house, where he can have visits from his wife and eight children.

While the trial is being called the Bundy Trial, one of the defendants isn't part of the Bundy family. Ryan Payne is accused of coordinating militias from around the country to come to Nevada to support the Bundys.

“Payne is an integral part of the government’s alleged conspiracy," Smith said.

The government said Payne was the person who reached out to militias to let them know about the so-called "range war" and asking them to come out to help with security.

Smith said an interview Payne gave a few years ago with a newspaper in Montana could be a stumbling block for his defense.

In the interview, Payne outlined how they positioned snipers and people with guns in the crowd so federal agents wouldn't fire on them.

"In other countries, when we see that happen that these cowards hiding behind innocent or unarmed people but that was definitely, according to an interview, part of that strategy," Smith said. 

The trial is expected to last up to four months. If convicted, the defendants face decades in prison. Which, says Smith, no matter your perspective on the issue, is an awful lot of prison time for interrupting a court-ordered cattle roundup.

John L. has been following the at times heated pretrial proceedings for us, as well as The Nevada Independent and Reuters news service.

 

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John L. Smith, contributor