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OPINION — Those who maintain that what happened in Bunkerville in April of 2014 was simply about Cliven Bundy’s cows and the federal Bureau of Land Management are getting a much needed reality check.
It was a symptom of a much larger long-term problem involving government power being exercised without proper limits or accountability.
When Judge Gloria Navarro declared a mistrial in the case against Cliven, Ammon and Ryan Bundy last week, virtually no one in the courtroom was shocked. Even the most openly hostile media representatives who have been covering the Bundys could see the writing on the wall.
Read more: Mistrial announced in Bundy case
The official narrative, which falsely depicted the defendants as dangerous, violent men who posed a deadly threat to government officers and the public in general, had been breaking up on the rocks of reality for some time.
Federal indictments were revealed to be long on melodrama and short on substance and did not accurately reflect what happened in Bunkerville in back in 2014. As more and more facts found their way to daylight, a very different picture began to emerge as to who were the aggressors and who were the victims in this case.
The government’s case against the Bundy family members and Ryan Payne had already failed to persuade jurors in a number of previous cases. This wasn’t a matter of the defendants exploiting loopholes or deftly out-lawyering the prosecution.
The juries weren’t stacked with Bundy supporters who could be counted on to oppose the government for ideological reasons. Jurors came to realize they simply could not trust that their government was telling them the truth.
In explaining her reasons for declaring the mistrial, Navarro cited several key pieces of evidence that prosecutors willfully failed to turn over to the defense during the discovery phase of the trial. Navarro pointedly emphasized the “willful suppression” of evidence as she listed each one.
This included information regarding an FBI surveillance camera posted outside the Bundy’s ranch, documents that identified BLM snipers posted outside the ranch eight days before the April 14 standoff. Also withheld was an FBI log with entries stating “snipers were inserted” and on standby outside the Bundy home.
In addition, prosecutors willfully withheld at least four threat assessments that admitted the Bundys weren’t violent and that the BLM was “antagonizing” the family. Finally, the government suppressed an internal affairs document that admitted there was no documentation of any desert tortoises being injured by Bundy’s cattle grazing on the federal land.
Over and over, federal prosecutors had accused the Bundys of deceiving those who rallied to their support in April of 2014, saying that they had falsely claimed they were being targeted by a militarized task force and in fear of their lives. Prosecutors openly mocked these assertions and the defendants’ efforts to compel the release of documents verifying the nature of the operation.
Ironically, it was the government’s own witnesses who inadvertently spilled the beans and verified the existence of this exculpatory evidence while they were testifying. Once the first cracks began to appear in the prosecution’s case, an unstoppable torrent of previously hidden truths began to spill forth.
Long story short, it was government agents, not the Bundys, who were the aggressors and who lawlessly sought to provoke violence.
Truth is what turned the government’s case on its head.
The jury was not going to convict them. Remember, it would only have taken a single juror refusing to convict to hang the jury and force a mistrial. In this latest trial, the vast majority of jurors were solidly on the side of the defendants.
This became crystal clear after the defendants and their counsel had the opportunity to visit with the jurors after they were released from their duties. One African-American juror, immediately walked from the jury box, gently moved a person aside who was visiting with Ryan Bundy and wrapped Bundy up in a big hug.
It’s telling that the people who are most upset about this trial ending in failure for the government are those who weren’t in the courtroom and who haven’t examined the evidence for themselves. Their hysterical outbursts are a poor substitute for reasoned observation.
It’s understandable that people can become dug in ideologically and find it difficult to adjust their thinking upon encountering new truth. None of us wishes to be dragged kicking and screaming to the realization that that we were wrong.
Still, it must be said. Far too many people have wrongly allowed the Bundy family and their supporters to be reduced to a one-dimensional headline. Will they continue to cling to official untruths?
This doesn’t mean that everyone must become a supporter of the Bundys. However, now that we know that a patently false, self-serving narrative was put forth by government and parroted by the media, it does raise the question, how can we trust what they say?
More importantly, how do we intend to hold unchecked and aggressive government agencies accountable?
Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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