Lawsuits have been filed by Jeanette Finicum, widow of Arizona rancher Robert LaVoy Finicum who was assassinated in cold blood by the Oregon State Police and FBI on Jan. 26, 2016 while apparently surrendering, and Cliven Bundy, who is disputing the Obama administration’s designation of public land in Utah as a national monument. The suits follow on the heels of dismissal of the last trial of the Bundy proceedings when the judge declared a mistrial due to “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct.”
By Mark Anderson
Recently freed rancher Cliven Bundy is suing Clark County, Nev. over the Obama administration’s late-2016 designation of public cattle-grazing land as the Gold Butte National Monument.
Bundy, whose family’s roots in the region go back about 140 years, calls the designation “illegal and unlawful,” since it could destroy his livelihood by stopping him from functioning as a beef producer.
His complaint states: “The current leaders and government officials of the state of Nevada and its subdivision, Clark County, refuse to defend its or the people’s rights to all lands within Nevada’s and Clark County’s borders.”
In the suit, it’s estimated that Bundy has 1,000 head of cattle grazing on 160 acres of private land—along with “300,000 acres of unclaimed land belonging to the people of Nevada and Clark County.”
The establishment of Gold Butte came down when Bundy, his sons, and several others were still in federal custody in Nevada, stemming from the now-legendary spring 2014 standoff between Bundy and his supporters, and armed Bureau of Land Management and FBI agents accompanied by private contractors. The federal agents tried to enforce a warrant to impound the rancher’s cattle, ostensibly for unpaid grazing fees on public land.
In the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada in Las Vegas on Jan. 8, Bundy, his sons Ryan and Ammon, and Ryan Payne were freed from prison when the federal government’s case against them was dismissed, ending a nearly two-year period of imprisonment and a tortuous series of trials and hearings.
Judge Gloria Navarro’s decision to dismiss the case is seen by many as a major triumph of citizen activism regarding property rights and constitutional principles.
One thing to closely watch at this juncture is whether President Donald Trump carries out any changes to the Gold Butte designation. As the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, “Bureau of Land Management officials in Las Vegas postponed discussion of the monument at its meetings this month [January] until the Trump administration decides on possible changes to the Obama-era land designation.”
The lawsuit is rooted in what AFP and other alternative media have long reported but mainstream media sources have downplayed or ignored: Bundy insists that Clark County, which is affected by the Gold Butte designation, is not under federal jurisdiction. While the federal government claims ownership of more than 80% of Nevada land, it’s only now that the mainstream Review-Journal is giving Clark County’s status significant publicity.
Bundy’s complaint, filed the afternoon of Jan. 25, argues: “Recognizing that the land is not owned by the United States of America, [Bundy] has avoided erroneously giving money [for grazing fees] to an entity which does not actually own the land and has been careful not to give money erroneously to a stranger to the land. Thus, there is an actual, significant legal controversy of great consequence. . . .”
Bundy has called upon Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo to assist him in this matter. Just days after Navarro dismissed the charges against Bundy and the other three defendants noted above, Bundy stood outside Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department headquarters to argue that, within Clark County, the sheriff is more powerful than the president, a viewpoint based on the “Constitutional Sheriff” principle popularized by former Arizona sheriff and author Richard Mack.
WIDOW SUING GOVERNMENT
Jeanette Finicum, widow of LaVoy Finicum— a much-loved Arizona rancher and foster father fatally shot by police at a roadblock about two years ago—has filed a civil demand for a jury trial in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. The suit was filed Jan. 26, on the two-year anniversary of the tragic event in which Finicum was gunned down, one day before his 55th birthday, while appearing to surrender along a remote stretch of highway in Oregon.
Mrs. Finicum is a plaintiff along with 12 others, as well as the estate of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, according to court documents. The documents list the defendants as not only the United States of America but also the state of Oregon, Harney County, Harry Mason Reid (former Nevada U.S. senator), Ronald Lee Wyden (current Oregon U.S. senator), the Center for Biodiversity, and several others.
The complaint says, in part:
On Jan. 26, 2016, at approximately 4:40 p.m., decedent Robert LaVoy Finicum was fatally shot three times in the back, assassination style, by one or more militarized officers of the Oregon State Police and/or FBI. LaVoy had plainly and repeatedly explained he was going to go across the county border to meet with Grant County Oregon Sherriff Glen Palmer and invited several of the . . . defendants to come with him. The problem was, Sherriff Palmer had already been identified by several of the . . . defendants as an unfriendly political personality, and as being potentially uncooperative with what has now been discovered to be the illegal, diabolical, and shocking internal government scheme and conspiracy to do intentional violence to LaVoy Finicum and other political supporters of Cliven Bundy and those who were visible public critics of the [Bureau of Land Management] and federal government overreach.
Interestingly, the complaint compares the case of Finicum to recent reports of a North Korean dissident fleeing that communist regime, as both Finicum and the dissident had tried to cross a border.
Unlike the North Korean [dissident] who fled for the border to safety in 2017, after LaVoy Finicum was shot in the back—he died. As it turns out, he was deliberately executed [in deep snow] by a pre-planned government ambush, after he had exited his vehicle with his hands up along an isolated section of U.S. Route 395 in Harney County, Oregon, where the only other people within miles were those who had set up the ambush. . . .
Notably, the government’s own aerial video footage appears to support the plaintiffs. The mainstream-news based Wikipedia online claims, on the contrary, “After fleeing the officers, Finicum was stopped by a roadblock, where he challenged officers to shoot him. He was shot and killed by state troopers while moving his hands toward his pocket, where officers later claim to have found a loaded weapon.”
Ryan Bundy and Ryan Payne were among several people who rode with Finicum that day. For those two men and Ammon Bundy, the Clark County, Nev. standoff back in April 2014 had already concluded with Bureau of Land Management and FBI agents backing down. But once the ensuing federal court trial from the Oregon affair concluded, these men were among those arrested when federal prosecutors decided it was payback time for the government having to abort its attempt in Nevada to confiscate Cliven’s cattle.
At the time of Finicum’s shooting, the lingering protest-occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge facility was winding down, thankfully without an attempted assault by law enforcement on the protesters.
Finicum was known for addressing reporters outside the facility, where the occupiers, many of them ranchers, had taken a firm stance to protest father and son ranchers Dwight and Steve Hammond being sent back to federal prison. Much to the dismay of the protesters and likeminded people across the nation, the Hammonds were convicted of arson for setting “backfires,” a logical action to protect their property from fires on adjacent federal property.
Mark Anderson is AFP’s roving editor.