PA Bill Number: HB2109
Title: In firearms and other dangerous articles, further providing for persons not to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell or transfer firearms and for ...
Description: In firearms and other dangerous articles, further providing for persons not to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell or transfer firearms and for ...
Last Action Date: Feb 23, 2018
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Drama erupts at Bundy retrial as judge scolds defendant, orders him off stand :: 08/11/2017
A Las Vegas courtroom erupted in drama Thursday when a federal judge ordered a defendant in the Bundy Ranch standoff trial to get off the stand, struck his testimony, dismissed jurors and abruptly left the bench.
Jurors looked stunned as Eric Parker returned to the defense table with his head hung and then buried his face in his hands, according to lawyers in the case.
"He put his head down on the counsel table and appeared to be crying," defense lawyer Shawn Perez said. "My observation of the jury was they were looking at everybody in the courtroom and going, 'What just happened?' "
Perez, who represents Richard Lovelien of Oklahoma, one of four defendants being retried for their roles in the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff, said everyone in the courtroom — from jurors to lawyers to observers — was stunned into momentary silence.
"I've never seen anything like it," he told The Arizona Republic in a phone interview Thursday. "It would not surprise me if there is a call for a mistrial."
Parker, of Idaho, was testifying in his own defense just before 3 p.m., when U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro stopped him from talking and said she was going to strike his words from the record. She then told Parker to step down.
Parker’s lawyer, Jess Marchese of Las Vegas, said he is still trying to wrap his head around what happened, saying he’s never experienced anything remotely similar.
“I looked at some of those jurors and they looked aghast,” Marchese said Thursday. “I looked at one woman (juror), and she looked like she had just seen someone get their head cut off.”
Marchese said Parker was distraught and started crying when he sat down.
Parker was attempting to tell jurors what he saw during the standoff over a barrage of objections from prosecutors, who said he was violating court orders not to talk about what happened in the run-up to the standoff.
Defense lawyers said Navarro called them to the front of the courtroom and told them Parker could testify only about what he saw during specific moments of the standoff.
As soon as Marchese resumed questioning, prosecutors intensified objections, and that’s when lawyers said Navarro halted the testimony and shut down the courtroom for the day.
Lawyers said after Navarro removed Parker from the stand, she asked them if they were prepared to call additional witnesses. Then she ordered the parties to return to court Monday morning and told jurors they could leave.
The judge left the courtroom before jurors filed out.
“We were really trying to be careful not to violate the court order,” Marchese said. “But it was very restrictive and difficult.”
Across from the aisle from the defense, federal prosecutors appeared as troubled by the developments as the defense, Perez said.
Acting Nevada U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre, who is leading the prosecution, could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for his office said Thursday the U.S. attorney would not comment on the case.
Parker, Lovelien and Steven Stewart and O. Scott Drexler, both of Idaho, are accused of conspiracy, extortion, assault and obstruction for helping rancher Cliven Bundy fend off a government roundup of his cattle in what became known as the Battle of Bunkerville.
Navarro's rulings have severely limited defense arguments to avoid what she has described as jury nullification.
Navarro has barred defendants from discussing why they traveled thousands of miles to join protesters at the Bundy Ranch. She will not allow them to testify about perceived abuses by federal authorities during the cattle roundup that might have motivated them to participate.
Navarro also has restricted defendants from raising constitutional arguments, or mounting any defense based on their First Amendment rights to free speech and their Second Amendment rights to bear arms. In her rulings, Navarro has said those are not applicable arguments in the case.
Retrial delays trial of Cliven Bundy, sons
A jury in April deadlocked on charges against the four men. It convicted two other defendants on multiple counts. But it could not agree on conspiracy charges — a key component of the government's case — against any of the six.
Jurors found Todd Engel of Idaho guilty of obstruction and interstate travel in aid of extortion and Gregory Burleson of Arizona guilty on eight charges, including threatening and assaulting a federal officer, obstruction, interstate travel in aid of extortion and brandishing a weapon.
Navarro sentenced Burleson to 68 years in prison last month.
The trial was supposed to serve as a strategic springboard for prosecutors — the first of three trials involving 17 defendants prosecuted in groups based on their levels of culpability in the standoff.
The second trial, which will include Cliven Bundy and his sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who are considered ringleaders in the standoff, was supposed to start 30 days after the first trial ended in April.
But Navarro ordered the second trial delayed until after the retrial of Parker, Drexler, Lovelien and Stewart.
What happened near Bundy Ranch?
The Bundy Ranch standoff is one of the most high-profile land-use cases in modern Western history, pitting cattle ranchers, anti-government protesters and militia members against the Bureau of Land Management.
For decades, the BLM repeatedly ordered Bundy to remove his cattle from federal lands and in 2014 obtained a court order to seize his cattle as payment for more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees.
The Bundy family issued a social-media battle cry. Hundreds of supporters from every state in the union, including members of several militia groups, converged on his ranch about 70 miles north of Las Vegas.
After the BLM abandoned the roundup, the standoff was hailed as a victory by militia members. Ammon and Ryan Bundy cited their success at Bundy Ranch in their run-up to the siege of an Oregon wildlife refuge in 2016, also in protest of BLM policies.
An Oregon federal jury acquitted Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five others in October. A second federal jury in Oregon delivered a split verdict against four others in March, acquitting two men on conspiracy charges and convicting two others.
No arrests were made in the Bundy Ranch case until after the Oregon siege ended.
The BLM abandoned the roundup because they were afraid they were going to die, federal prosecutors told jurors. They said law-enforcement officers were surrounded and outgunned in a dusty arroyo beneath Interstate 15 where they had penned the cattle.
Local, state and federal law-enforcement officers testified they believed they would be drawn into a bloody shooting war with unarmed men, women and children in the crossfire.
Images of Parker have come to epitomize the standoff. He is pictured in an iconic photo lying prone on an overpass and sighting a long rifle at BLM agents in the wash below. The image galvanized the public and brought international awareness to the feud over public lands and the potential consequences of such a dispute.
But jurors in the first trial couldn't agree on whether Parker brandished a weapon, assaulted officers or even posed a threat to them.
Marchese said Thursday the judge’s actions put him in “uncharted waters,” and he had no idea what to expect when court resumes on Monday. He said there was no question the jury had strong reactions to what happened.
“I personally was stunned,” he said. “I am still stunned. If my recollection of things is what happened, then I have no words.”