A federal grand jury indicted Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and four others Wednesday with a raft of felony charges related to a 2014 armed standoff at Bundy’s ranch.
Bundy led that standoff near Bunkerville, Nevada, after the Bureau of Land Management attempted to seize his cattle as restitution for unpaid grazing fees.
“The rule of law has been reaffirmed with these charges,” wrote U.S. Attorney for Nevada Daniel Bogden. “Persons who use force and violence against federal law enforcement officers … will be brought to justice.”
Bundy and his sons — Ammon and Ryan Bundy — as well as Montana resident Ryan Payne and Ohio conservative Internet radio show host Pete Santilli were charged with a total of 16 felonies.
The charges were:
- 1 count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States
- 1 count of conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer
- 4 counts of using and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence
- 2 counts of assault on a federal officer
- 2 counts of threatening a federal law enforcement officer
- 3 counts of obstruction of the due administration of justice
- 2 counts of interference with interstate commerce by extortion
- 1 count of interstate travel in aid of extortion
All of the defendants listed in the indictment are currently being held in Oregon. They were arrested in relation to the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Other than Cliven Bundy, all those charged in the Nevada standoff Wednesday also face charges in the Oregon standoff.
“Today marks a tremendous step toward ending more than 20 years of law breaking,” said Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze in a statement, referring to Cliven Bundy’s longstanding dispute with his agency.
If convicted of the charges in the indictment, Bundy and the other four men could be forced to forfeit any property they gained as a result of the alleged crimes — totaling at least $3 million, according to prosecutors — and any firearms or ammunition used during the 2014 standoff.
Wednesday’s indictment identifies Cliven Bundy as the “leader, organizer, and chief beneficiary of the conspiracy,” and states that he “possessed ultimate authority” over the 2014 standoff.
“The remaining defendants are charged as leaders and organizers who conspired with Bundy to achieve his criminal objectives,” Bogden wrote in a statement.
The maximum penalties for each of the charges against the men range from five to 20 years in prison. Each charge carries a maximum fine of $250,000.
Salem-based attorney Noel Grefenson, who is representing Cliven Bundy in Oregon, said via text message Wednesday night that he hadn’t yet seen the indictment.
“That being said, I have every confidence Mr. Bundy will immediately plead not guilty and will welcome the opportunity to have a jury of his peers decide what really happened,” Grefenson wrote.
Ammon Bundy’s defense attorney, Mike Arnold, also said that he hadn’t yet read the indictment, but added he wasn’t surprised by it because the criminal compliant against Cliven Bundy filed last week listed four unnamed co-conspirators.
“It’s what we expected,” Arnold said. “It’s something we’ve learned about this last week. We’ve just been waiting for the indictment.”
Arnold later said by text message that “it’s important for the public to remember that there is a constitutional presumption of innocence in America.”
“A government charge is proof of nothing,” Arnold wrote. “That’s what courts and trials are for.”
This report first appeared on OPB’s website.