LAS VEGAS (AP) — A federal jury in Las Vegas found two men guilty Monday in an armed standoff that stopped government agents from rounding up cattle near Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch in 2014, but then deadlocked on federal charges against four others.
The six men were the first to be tried in the standoff, which was hailed as a victory by states’ rights advocates who want vast stretches of federal land in the U.S. West put under local control.
Their case was seen as a preview for an upcoming trial for Bundy; his eldest sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy; and two others who prosecutors have characterized as leaders of a conspiracy to defy the government with guns.
The judge declared a mistrial for Richard Lovelien, Scott Drexler, Eric Parker and Steven Stewart and scheduled a new trial for June 26, the same day the Bundys are set to be tried.
Earlier, the same jury convicted Gregory Burleson, 53, of Phoenix, of eight charges, including threatening and assaulting a federal officer. He faces a minimum of 57 years in prison at sentencing July 26.
Todd Engel, 49, of Boundary County, Idaho, was found guilty of obstruction and traveling across state lines in aid of extortion. Engel could face up to 30 years at sentencing July 27.
The Bundys have become symbols in the long-running fight over government-owned land. The sons also were accused of leading a 41-day armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon last year. They were acquitted of all charges but kept behind bars to face trial in the earlier standoff near their father’s ranch.
Jurors in Las Vegas deliberated for six days and indicated last week they were having trouble reaching verdicts on charges of conspiracy. No one was convicted of conspiracy, mirroring the Oregon case.
About 30 supporters gathered outside court, where Cliven Bundy’s wife, Carol, said before the mistrial was declared that the jury saw weakness in the government’s case.
“If they can’t decide, there’s doubt. If there’s doubt, there’s innocence,” she said.
The six defendants answered a Bundy family call-to-arms three years ago in Bunkerville, Nevada, making them co-conspirators in a plan to commit a federal offense and impede or injure federal officers, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors also characterized them as the least culpable of the 17 to be tried in the case.
Jurors heard testimony and saw photos of each defendant with an assault-style rifle during the tense standoff where more than 100 protesters shouted for heavily armed federal agents to release nearly 400 cows.
The government was enforcing court orders to get Bundy cattle off public lands for his refusal to pay grazing fees.
No shots were fired. But it is illegal to brandish assault-style weapons against federal agents, Acting Nevada U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre said.
The defendants argued they came to Nevada to exercise constitutional rights of free speech and weapon possession after seeing accounts of Bundy family members met with police dogs, knocked down, stun-gunned and arrested in earlier scuffles with federal agents.
A third trial for six others charged in the standoff is expected in the fall.