Vegas main event: Bundy trial starts in 2014 standoff

Cliven Bundy, sons Ryan and Ammon on trial over armed standoff

Rancher Cliven Bundy poses for a photo outside his ranch house on April 11, 2014 west of Mesquite, Nevada. Bureau of Land Management officials are rounding up Cliven Bundy's cattle, he has been locked in a dispute with the BLM for a couple of decades over grazing rights. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Opening statements in the federal trial of Nevada cattleman Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and a co-defendant in a 2014 armed standoff against government agents took place Tuesday, the first day of a trial that is expected to last 4 months.

Prosecutors allege the 71-year-old Bundy, sons Ryan and Ammon Bundy, and Ryan Payne led a self-styled militia to stop federal agents at gunpoint from enforcing court orders to remove Bundy’s cattle from public rangeland.

The prosecution

Ammon Bundy was booked back into the Multnomah County Jail on Friday, February 24, 2017. (MCSO)

A jury was told that Cliven Bundy and followers won an armed standoff with U.S. agents in April 2014 through use-of-force and violence “at the end of a gun.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre finished his two-hour opening summary of case against Bundy, two sons and a co-defendant casting the Nevada rancher as the leader of a conspiracy involving militia members and men, women and children.

Myhre says evidence will show they had a common objective – to get Bundy cattle back from federal agents trying to enforce lawful court orders to remove his cows from public rangeland for non-payment of grazing fees and penalties.

Bundy doesn’t recognize federal authority over land in U.S. states.

Ryan Bundy in a mug shot from Feb. 19, 2016 (Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office)

The defense

Bundy’s attorney, Bret Whipple, told the federal jury in Las Vegas that no one conspired with anyone in what amounted to a peaceful protest near Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Jurors got their first look at videos of confrontations that Cliven Bundy’s lawyer says provided the catalyst for an April 2014 armed standoff with federal agents and a trial now underway for the Nevada rancher, two sons and a co-defendant.

One clip showed Bundy’s sister knocked to the ground by a federal agent. Another showed Bundy’s son, David Bundy, taken to the ground and arrested while taking photos of armed men with guns near the Bundy ranch six days before the standoff.

A third showed an agent zapping Bundy son Ammon Bundy with a stun gun when he used an ATV to block a dump truck that attorney Bret Whipple said Tuesday was hauling irrigation equipment that the government illegally ripped from arid public range where the family grazed cattle.

Whipple told jurors that in the end, they will be the ones to decide whether crimes were committed during what he says amounted to peaceful protests.