BLM document: Former investigator alleges vast misconduct in Bundy case

Could the mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip affect the high-profile Bundy case? That’s the question as the trial for rancher Cliven Bundy and his sons Ryan and Ammon is set to begin Monday morning. (KSNV file photo)

Vast misconduct by Bureau of Land Management agents during its investigation of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy is alleged in a sealed document posted online on Thursday.

An 18-page memo written by BLM Special Agent Larry C. Wooten to Associate Deputy Attorney General Andrew Goldsmith alleges describes nearly three years of misconduct by BLM agents by his agency during its investigation of the 2014 armed standoff between the government and supporters of the Nevada rancher.

“I routinely observed, and the investigation revealed a widespread pattern of bad judgment, lack of discipline, incredible bias, unprofessionalism and misconduct,” Wooten wrote, “as well as likely policy, ethical, and legal violations among senior and supervisory staff at the BLM’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security.”

RELATED | Judge raises possibility of mistrial in Bundy armed standoff case

The allegations include efforts to suppress evidence and discriminatory behavior toward the Bundys.

The memo indicates that Dan Love, the BLM special agent in charge, was primarily responsible for the improper activities.

A portion of the memo states, "... this investigation alsi indicated excessive use of force, civil rights and policy violations. The investigation indicated there was little doubt there was an improper cover-up in virtually every matter that a particular BLM SAC (Love) participated in, or oversaw and that the BLM SAC was immune from discipline and the consequences of his actions."

Earlier this week, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gloria Navarro gave prosecutors until Friday to try and correct at least seven evidence disclosure violations mistakes the government made. It is believed the government filed the brief on Wednesday and the defense will have until Monday to file an answer. Navarro could order the trial to continue or could declare a mistrial early next week. The alleged violations are unrelated to the memo written by Wooten.

Navarro has hinted that she may declare a mistrial, but gave the prosecution this week to file a motion in an effort to correct its errors.

The leaked document is yet another twist in a tumultuous federal trial of Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan, and Montana militiaman Ryan Payne that began Nov. 14.

The document began circulating after Republican Washington state Rep. Matt Shea read parts of it in a live-stream video on Thursday. The document was acquired by the Oregonian and posted on pro-Bundy media sites Thursday.

High Country News has independently reviewed the document.

According to High Country News Associate Editor Tay Wiles, the Idaho-based Wooten describes himself as the lead investigator regarding the failed government impoundment of Bundy’s cattle that were grazing illegally on public land. The investigation began following the April 12, 2014, standoff to assist U.S. attorneys in their case against the Bundys and several supporters. It was what Wooten calls “the largest and most expansive and important investigation ever within the Department of Interior.” The document states he was in this role for nearly three years before higher-ups removed him from the investigation in February 2017.

Wooten alleges the BLM misconduct he witnessed “showed clear prejudice against the defendants, their supporters and Mormons.” He states that “degrading fliers” about the Bundys or their supporters were passed around his office and a booking photo of Cliven Bundy was “prominently and proudly displayed.”

Wooten also alleges his supervisor was not forthcoming with information about the cattle impoundment to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada that was preparing a case against the Bundys. Wooten states that he took it upon himself to bring information to Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre: “When I asked Mr. Myhre if the former BLM (Special Agent in Charge’s) statements like ‘Go out there and kick Cliven Bundy in the mouth (or teeth) and take his cattle’... would be exculpatory or if we would have to inform the defense counsel, he said something like, ‘We do now,’ or ‘It is now.’”

In the document, Wooten alleges that his supervisor -- Love -- “instigated the unprofessional monitoring of jail calls between defendants and their wives, without prosecutor or FBI consent.”

Supervisors also took case files related to the investigation of the impoundment from Wooten’s office without his permission, the document alleges. Those files included information about Love, who led the failed impoundment.

Wooten states that he did not know Love before the investigation, but that he was told “time after time” of Love’s history of misconduct, such as: “Directing Subordinates to Erase Official Government Files in order to impede the efforts of rival civilian BLM employees in preparation for the ‘Burning Man’ Special Event, unlawfully removing evidence, bragging about the number of (Office of Inspector General) and internal investigations on him and indicating that he was untouchable.” Wooten writes: “It is my assessment and the investigation showed that the 2014 Gold Butte Trespass Cattle Impound was in part a punitive and ego driven expedition by a Senior BLM Law Enforcement Supervisor.”

In the document, Wooten says his intent is not to defend the Bundys. “This investigation also showed that subjects of the investigation in part adopted an aggressive and bully type strategy that ultimately led to the shutdown of Interstate 15, where many armed followers of Cliven Bundy brandished and pointed weapons at the Federal Officers and the Agents in the Toquop Wash near Bunkerville, Nevada."

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