Investigator alleges misconduct in armed Nevada standoff
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A lead investigator with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management who looked into how his agency handled an armed standoff with ranchers in Nevada is alleging misconduct in a whistleblower memo, a newspaper that obtained the document reported Friday.
The memo obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive prompted the attorney for lead defendant Cliven Bundy to file a motion to dismiss the case.
It also comes as U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro debates what to do about defense team assertions that federal prosecutors have not turned over complete evidence records about the conduct of FBI and other government agents during the standoff. She has dismissed the jury for a week — until Wednesday — while she considers the issue.
Bundy and sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy and Ryan Payne are accused of conspiring to block federal agents from enforcing court orders to confiscate family cattle on public land. Cliven Bundy had failed to pay grazing fees and fines for years. The men are also charged with firearms crimes, threatening a federal law enforcement officer, obstruction of justice and extortion in a trial that began last month in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas.
Larry Wooten, lead case agent and investigator for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, also testified before a federal grand jury that returned indictments against the Bundys for the standoff at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada.
He said he was removed from the investigation last February after he complained to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada.
Last month, he sent a whistleblower email to the U.S. Department of Justice, alleging a “widespread pattern of bad judgment, lack of discipline, incredible bias, unprofessionalism and misconduct, as well as likely policy, ethical and legal violations among senior and supervisory staff” at the Bureau of Land Management’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security.
Wooten wrote that supervisory agents repeatedly mocked the defendants; displayed “clear prejudice” against the Bundys, their supporters and Mormons; and displayed altered booking photos of Cliven Bundy and other defendants in a federal office and in an office presentation.
The memo described “heavy handedness” by government officers as they prepared to impound Cliven Bundy’s cattle.
He said some officers “bragged about roughing up Dave Bundy, grinding his face into the ground and Dave Bundy having little bits of gravel stuck in his face.”
Dave Bundy, one of Cliven Bundy’s sons, was arrested April 6, 2014, while videotaping men he suspected were federal agents near his father’s ranch.
Wooten also alleged that supervisory agents failed to turn over required discovery evidence to the prosecution team that could help the defense or be used to question the credibility of a witness, as required by law.
Cliven Bundy’s lawyer Bret O. Whipple said the new information was “quite a development.” The memo has not been filed with the court but was shared with the defense.
“In my mind, I think the case should be dismissed by next Tuesday,” he told The Oregonian/OregonLive.“I think I can get my client home for Christmas.”
Trisha Young, a spokeswoman for the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s Office, told the newspaper Friday that her office declined to comment.
They’re also accused of using or carrying a firearm in a crime of violence, threatening a federal law enforcement officer, obstruction of justice and extortion.
Their trial began Nov. 14 in Las Vegas.
Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com