Nevada uprising leader vowed 'whatever it
takes' to stop government: recording
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[November 28, 2017]
By John L. Smith
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Weeks before Nevada
rancher Cliven Bundy led an armed standoff of militia supporters against
federal agents in 2014, his son vowed to do "whatever it takes" to keep
the family's cattle out of government hands, according to a recording
played in court by prosecutors on Monday.
The conversation between Ryan Bundy and federal Bureau of Land
Management agents occurred on March 27, 2014, ahead of a confrontation
that galvanized right-wing militia groups challenging federal authority
over vast tracts of public land in the American West.
The revolt against the Bureau of Land Management by Cliven Bundy and
armed followers was sparked by the court-ordered roundup of his cattle
in April of that year after he had refused for two decades to pay fees
required to graze his herds on federal property.
Bundy, 71, his two sons, Ammon and Ryan, and co-defendant Ryan Payne are
charged with 15 criminal counts, the most serious of which carries a
maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
In 2014, hundreds of supporters, responding to Cliven Bundy's pleas for
help, descended on his ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada, about 75 miles
northeast of Las Vegas, in a show of force to demand that his impounded
livestock be returned.
Police and government agents, vastly outgunned, ultimately retreated
rather than risk bloodshed, and no shots were fired.
"We are going to stop your gathering. We will do whatever it takes,"
Ryan Bundy told Bureau of Land Management agents in the recorded phone
call after he was reached on his cell phone.
Bureau of Land Management agents Michael Johnson and Robert Shilaikis,
who were assigned to inform the Bundy family of government plans to
impound the cattle, asked Ryan Bundy whether the family would interfere.
Shilaikis testified on Monday that Bundy warned the agents not to show
[to top of second column]
Ryan Bundy (R), a son of rancher Cliven Bundy, attends a Bundy
family "Patriot Party" near Bunkerville, Nevada, April 18, 2014.
REUTERS/Steve Marcus/File Photo
Bundy also said on the call that he did not recognize the
jurisdiction of the federal government in this incident and a state
court should handle the matter. Johnson responded that was not an
option and repeatedly asked for a way to avoid conflict.
"You will not take one single cow that belongs to us, do you
understand that?" Bundy responded.
"If you want a peaceful resolve of this, you will not show up," he
During testimony on Monday, Shilaikis said he concluded from the
call that "Mr. Bundy was going to stop this at all costs."
After defense attorneys questioned the secretive nature of the
recording, the full phone conversation was played for the jury in
U.S. District Court in Las Vegas. Much of the conversation involved
Bundy and Johnson discussing their Mormon faith, with Bundy arguing
that it showed the federal government had no standing in the issue.
Defendants have cast the uprising as an act of patriotic civil
disobedience against government excess. Prosecutors contend that
Bundy and his followers were defying the rule of law by threat of
violence, rather than engaging in an act of legal protest.
The trial is expected to run through February.
(Reporting by John L. Smith, Editing by Ben Klayman)
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