Wednesday's HOT MIC
Not quite sure if this is a case of federal overreach or jury nullification.
A federal jury in Las Vegas refused Tuesday to convict four defendants who were retried on accusations that they threatened and assaulted federal agents by wielding assault weapons in a 2014 confrontation to stop a cattle roundup near the Nevada ranch of states' rights figure Cliven Bundy.
In a stunning setback to federal prosecutors planning to try the Bundy family patriarch and two adult sons later this year, the jury acquitted Ricky Lovelien and Steven Stewart of all 10 charges, and delivered not-guilty findings on most charges against Scott Drexler and Eric Parker.
More than 30 defendants' supporters in the courtroom broke into applause after Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro ordered Lovelien and Stewart freed immediately and set Wednesday morning hearings to decide if Parker and Drexler should remain jailed pending a government decision whether to seek a third trial.
"Random people off the streets, these jurors, they told the government again that we're not going to put up with tyranny," said a John Lamb, a Montana resident who attended almost all the five weeks of trial, which began with jury selection July 10.
"They've been tried twice and found not guilty," Bundy family matriarch Carol Bundy said outside court. "We the people are not guilty."
All four men were photographed carrying assault-style weapons during the standoff near the Nevada town of Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Each had faced the possibility of decades in federal prison if they were convicted.
Jurors saw images of Parker and Drexler in prone shooting positions looking down their rifles through slots in the concrete barrier of an Interstate 15 freeway overpass toward heavily armed federal agents guarding a corral of cows below.
Defense attorneys noted that no shots were fired and no one was injured. They cast the tense standoff with more than 100 men, women and children in the potential crossfire as an ultimately peaceful protest involving people upset about aggressive tactics used by federal land managers against Bundy family members.
Was there a technical violation of the law? I don't think there's any doubt of that. But a bunch of guys in camo walking around with their weapons is hardly threatening. And where did they come up with an "assault" charge?
The feds, armed to the teeth and backed up by all the power in Washington, were actually far more of a threat to the protesters than the private citizens were to them. I think the jury realized that and acted accordingly.
If the federal government really wants to put Cliven Bundy and his family in jail, they are going to have to find another way