By John Friend —
In a move no doubt calculated to demonstrate the power and vindictiveness of the federal government, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and four individuals close to him were indicted by a federal grand jury in the state of Nevada in mid-February. The others named in the indictment were Bundy’s sons, Ryan and Ammon, militiaman Ryan Payne, and Pete Santilli, an independent broadcaster who covered both the Bundy Ranch standoff in 2014 and the Oregon standoff earlier this year.
On February 10, one week prior to the federal indictment being made public, Cliven Bundy was arrested at Portland International Airport while on his way to Burns, Oregon. According to the Bundy family, Cliven was surrounded by SWAT officers shortly after landing in Portland and was subsequently taken into custody.
The Bundy patriarch is widely hailed as a hero in the American patriot community for standing up to the federal government in the spring of 2014, an event AMERICAN FREE PRESS reported on at the time. His sons were instrumental in organizing the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon earlier this year in protest of federal land management policies in the region.
Bundy family members have collaborated with a number of militia-style and constitutional groups over the course of the past two years and are widely recognized as honest patriots attempting to check the tyrannical nature of the federal government, especially as it relates to federal land use policy in Nevada and other Western states.
The federal government owns massive amounts of land in the West, which many view as legally dubious or outright fraudulent according to the Constitution. A dispute between federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages land owned by the federal government, and a local ranching family near Burns, Oregon sparked the occupation of the Refuge, an event that drew international media attention, as did the Bundy ranch standoff in Nevada in early 2014.
Sixteen felony charges were leveled against the Bundy men and their two associates, all of which stem from the standoff at the Bundy family ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada in April 2014. Ryan and Ammon Bundy, along with Payne and Santilli, also face federal charges in the state of Oregon for their role in the standoff at Malheur just south of Burns, an event AFP has reported on extensively in recent editions.
“Cliven D. Bundy, 69, of Bunkerville, Nevada, Ryan C. Bundy, 43, of Mesquite, Nevada, Ammon E. Bundy, 40, of Emmet, Idaho, Ryan W. Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Montana, and Peter T. Santilli, Jr., 50, of Cincinnati, Ohio, are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, one count of conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer, four counts of using and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, two counts of assault on a federal officer, two counts of threatening a federal law enforcement officer, three counts of obstruction of the due administration of justice, two counts of interference with interstate commerce by extortion, and one count of interstate travel in aid of extortion,” reads a press release announcing the federal indictment from the United States Attorneys Office in the District of Nevada. “The indictment also alleges five counts of criminal forfeiture which upon conviction would require forfeiture of property derived from the proceeds of the crimes totaling at least $3 million, as well as the firearms and ammunition possessed and used on April 12, 2014.”
Officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the BLM made the announcement Wednesday, February 17.
“The rule of law has been reaffirmed with these charges,” U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden for the District of Nevada stated. “Persons who use force and violence against federal law enforcement officers who are enforcing court orders, and nearly causing catastrophic loss of life or injury to others, will be brought to justice.”
Cliven and his sons, along with Payne and Santilli, remain in federal custody in Portland.
Ammon Bundy, who was a leading figure and spokesman for the occupation of the wildlife refuge, released a statement from jail the day after the federal indictment in Nevada was made public. Bundy did not mince words in his response to the federal indictment against him and his associates.
“[T]his is just a continuation of government trying to protect its own power, government taking land that does not belong to them from the people,” Bundy’s statement read. “This is a continuation of them overreaching—going far beyond their constitutional bounds and showing that they are willing to use the court system to prosecute people that were defending their rights; defending their property. And don’t forget what happened at the Bundy Ranch: that they killed cattle, that they Tased people, that they threw women on the ground, that they sicced their dogs on pregnant women, that they gang-beat men to the ground for filming them with their iPad. And that they set up a First Amendment right area and saying that you cannot protest outside those corrals. Don’t forget what happened at the Bundy Ranch and how important this is that we make a stand.”
Santilli, the controversial renegade broadcaster, plans to fight the federal charges, arguing his activities are protected under the First Amendment. The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon even came to Santilli’s defense recently in a published letter from its director, although they are not officially representing the outspoken media personality.
“This is a 50-year-old guy with no history of any violence,” Thomas Coan, an attorney representing Santilli, recently told reporters. “Everything the government is claiming against him is based upon either his speech or his using speech to assemble people.”
From all indications, the Bundys also plan on fighting the federal charges currently pending against them. AFP will continue to follow this developing story.
John Friend is a California-based writer who maintains a blog.