Cliven Bundy Mistrial Liner Notes

I have a new column up at The Federalist about the mistrial declared in the prosecution of Nevada cattleman Cliven Bundy, his two sons and others on charges arising from their armed 2014 standoff against federal authorities near Bundy’s ranch.

The idea for this didn’t originate with me, but I became interested after reading up on the case.  After all, the Constitution protects even unsympathetic defendants — and the Bundys are not the most sympathetic of defendants — from prosecutorial misconduct.  And this is a bizarre case insofar as the feds almost seem to have gone out of their way to lend credence to the Bundys’ rather conspiratorial view of politics.

That eccentric view of how the law and government works is often associated with the right (although I’ve seen similar “sovereign citizen” nuttiness from people of varying politics).  Thus it may be a little odd that the best two articles I read on their saga were not published by conservative or libertarian outlets, but by The Intercept and Mother Jones.

I linked both of those pieces in the column, but it’s worth flagging them here for anyone interested in all of the bizarre parts of the story I had to exclude due to space limitations.  For example, the FBI having an agent pose as a documentary filmmaker in an effort to dig up evidence against the Bundys.  Or the questions about the death that occurred during a subsequent standoff in Oregon.

In a column of normal length, I had to stick mostly to the story about how the feds used FBI surveillance and snipers at the Bundy ranch and then tried to cover it up.  And it looks like the Bureau of Land Management and prosecutors did so because folks involved with the operation had a much different agenda than their superiors in DC and elsewhere did.  The malefactors seem to have dripped with the sort of condescension that is part of How You Got Trump (even after accounting for the Bundys’ seeming nuttiness).

And yet, those at fault don’t seem to have had the courage of their convictions, either.  They called out snipers against people the government assessed as nonviolent, yet they ultimately were too afraid of another Waco or Ruby Ridge debacle to follow through (thankfully), resulting in a retreat that likely left them embarrassed.  That embarrassment seems to have driven years of more bad decisions on the part of the government.

Today, the judge is to hear oral argument on whether to let another trial go forward.  If I had to bet, I’d bet the judge allows another trial, albeit with some restrictions on what the government may argue.  However it comes out, as I note in the column, the case — and more importantly, the bureaucratic attitudes that informed it — deserve further review by the DoJ.

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