The trial of six defendants accused of being gunmen for Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy during a tense standoff with federal authorities in April 2014 enters its second week in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas.
KNPR contributor John L. Smith has been monitoring the trial and he joins us as he does each week with his observations on the news.
Last week, we learned of plenty of dramatic photos and video footage of the standoff outside the Bundy ranch on April 12, 2014.
Now, government agents who were there have been testifying. They say they were afraid of the Bundy supporters, who were pointing high-powered rifles at them.
“As the agents describe it, it went from being alarming to being dangerous and potentially deadly because of the presence of the firearms and including the presence of long rifles and high-powered rifles that were pointed in their general direction. They weren’t all pointed in their direction but they testified that they felt in fear of their lives,” Smith said.
But the Bundy supporters who are on trial say they were afraid of the BLM, who – they had heard – had orders to use lethal force if necessary. They point out that Nevada Highway Patrol and Metro Police officers were walking among the crowd and they hadn’t drawn their weapons.
“The bottom line is, I think, that it puts a little nuisance in that tense standoff that wasn’t so tense for the NHP and wasn’t so tense for the Metro officers. It’s an interesting dynamic at play right now in court,” Smith said.
The six people on trial are accused of carrying weapons, but not being the masterminds behind the standoff with BLM agents. Smith told KNPR’s State of Nevada he believes there is a reason the accused gunman are being tried first.
“But it’s my observation that this is a very important case for the government because if the alleged gunman are convicted… then you roll into the second trial by being able to call them gunman. If they’re not convicted, then it takes a lot of the feel of danger out of the entire standoff. Then I have to wonder – I mean it was certainly fortuitous for the prosecution to have these defendants up first because if they can show through their photographic evidence and their witness testimony they can show that there was a danger and they get those convictions I think its going to bolster their case going into what’s considered the main event, which is Cliven Bundy and two of his sons – Ammon and Ryan.”