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John L. Smith On Ryan Bundy's Constitution, And The Bygone Entertainment Of Las Vegas


(AP Photo/John Locher)

Ryan Bundy, left, walks out of federal court with his wife Angela Bundy, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Las Vegas. Ryan Bundy, along with his father Cliven Bundy, brother Ammon Bundy, and co-defendant Ryan Payne, are accused of leading an armed standoff in 2014 against government agents in a cattle grazing dispute.

Week two of the Bundy trial ended early last week, but not without some fireworks and a detailed reading of the Constitution by defendant Ryan Bundy as he was questioning a witness.

John L. Smith was in the courtroom. He said the jurors heard a recording of a phone conversation between the Bundys and agents of the Bureau of Land Managment about a month before the April standoff.

The BLM agents wanted to inform the Bundys about their plans to take the cattle and wanted to gauge whether they would cooperate.

“What they were trying to do was determine whether they were going to put up a struggle and that would include their previous conversations in which Cliven Bundy said, ‘we will do whatever it takes to defend our livestock and ourselves,’” Smith said.

Smith said the agents were asking the Bundys to allow them to take the cattle without incident, but Ryan Bundy's responses in the recorded conversation showed that was not going to be the case.

“From the outset, Ryan Bundy made it clear there was no intention of following those court orders,” Smith said.

However, the Bundys also did not indicate that they would be using any physical violence.

“He stopped short of saying that they would be involved in a physical altercation," Smith said, "You might draw that conclusion from the kinds of language that was being used but he did not say that.”

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But Smith said Ryan Bundy was "animated and angry" during that phone conversation. 

Another important piece in the story of the Bundys and the federal government was provided by Justice Department lawyer Terry Petrie. 

Petrie was involved in the case for a long time. He detailed to the jury the times when the Bundys refused to comply with court orders and even failed to participate in the process.

Smith said Petrie was "unshakable on the witness stand." Petrie said he understood where Cliven Bundy was coming from in his stance against the federal government, but that his argument didn't apply in the grazing fees case.

“Bundy does not believe the BLM has any jurisdiction of the land that most of us would call federal public land," Smith said, "He calls it the Bundy Range.”

It was Petrie that Ryan Bundy, who is working as his own attorney, read the Constitution to in an effort, Smith believed, to show that Ryan Bundy knew more about the document then the DOJ lawyer did.

“There is no conversation with Cliven Bundy that doesn’t include talk of the Constitution and its proper place," Smith said, "Its fundamental and foundational place in his life and his family’s life.”

On the Entertainment Capital of the World and Its Entertainment Museum:

Following the death of actress and singer Della Reese earlier this month, Smith has some thoughts about reviving Las Vegas’ past. 

Reese played in some of the great showrooms of Las Vegas in the 50s and 60s. She was also a groundbreaking entertainer. She was the first African-American woman to have a TV talk show.

Smith believes Reese and other entertainers like her should be honored in an entertainment museum on the Las Vegas Strip.

"We definitely need the community to pick up that ball and say ‘what do we have? We got it all in entertainment. So, let’s celebrate it in our own big museum.'" he proposed. 

To Smith, it shouldn't just be a museum full of memorabilia but it should also include video and audio of some of the great performances along with a performance space.

“My vision includes a showroom replica where real shows are performed," he said.

And as for where the new museum should be built, Smith suggested a piece of land that is now seared into everyone's memory.

“I cannot think of a better use for the land that is the site of the October 1 mass shooting,” he said.

He said the victims and the survivors of the shooting had come to the city for entertainment and to have a good time. He believes an entertainment museum would celebrate and commemorate at the same time.






John L. Smith, contributor

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