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Judge Declares Mistrial in Cattle Rancher Cliven Bundy’s Armed Standoff Case

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Ammon Bundy, leader of a group of armed anti-government protesters, speaks to the media as other members look on at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon January 4, 2016. The FBI on January 4 sought a peaceful end to the occupation by armed anti-government militia members at a US federal wildlife reserve in rural Oregon, as the standoff entered its third day. The loose-knit band of farmers, ranchers and survivalists -- whose action was sparked by the jailing of two ranchers for arson -- said they would not rule out violence if authorities stormed the site, although federal officials said they hope to avoid bloodshed.Rob Kerr—AFP/Getty Images

A federal judge in Nevada has declared a mistrial in the trial of Cliven Bundy, his sons, and another “self-styled militiaman” named Ryan Payne after the U.S. government failed to turn over documents to the defense.

U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro said the mistrial was regrettable but inevitable. In her judgment, the documents withheld by the government could have helped the defense’s argument. She added that the government had made several erroneous claims, including their denial that snipers were monitoring the ranch when in fact they were.

The trial was related to the 2014 “Bundy standoff” in Nevada between federal agents and the Bundy party, a standoff that lasted several weeks. The government had instructed Bundy to remove his cattle from public lands, where he had grazed them for decades without having a permit or paying fees estimated in the millions of dollars. The standoff ended with the government standing down.

In 2016 one of Cliven Bundy’s sons, Ammon Bundy, led a group that occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in an attempt to make the government “return the land to the people.” His brother Ryan Bundy was also among the occupiers, who surrendered to the government after 41 days.

In the wake of the mistrial, Judge Navarro has tentatively scheduled a new trial to begin in February 2018. In a hearing scheduled for Jan. 8 the defense is expected to argue for the dismissal of charges against all four men.