Opening statements begin in Bundy trial over 2014 standoff with federal agents

The trial for Cliven Bundy (right) continues Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, at the U.S. Federal Courthouse in downtown Las Vegas. (Illustration by Stewart Freshwater)

Jurors in Las Vegas federal court heard two very different stories about Cliven Bundy and the events leading up to the April 2014 standoff.

Acting US attorney Steven Myhre described Cliven Bundy as a rancher who owns a 160-acre Nevada ranch surrounded by thousands of acres of public land under the control of the Bureau of Land Management.

In 1993, the government says Bundy discontinued obtaining permits to use the land to graze his cattle and stopped paying his cattle grazing fees.

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Myhre told jurors the BLM tried to negotiate a resolution with Bundy before obtaining a court order to confiscate the animals and sell them at auction.

He also told jurors that the April 2014 standoff at Bundy ranch happened because Cliven Bundy organized a militia to intimidate and impede federal officers.

After Tuesday's lunch break, jurors heard the opening statement from attorney Brett Whipple, who represents Cliven Bundy.

Whipple described Bundy as a ranching pioneer who was fighting government intrusion on his land and water rights.

"A dispute over the natural resources of Clark County," is how Whipple described the case, in an animated declaration to the jury.

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He told jurors that events connected to the standoff have been emotional, but always peaceful, and always followed Nevada law.

Bundy's attorney also countered government claims that his client organized a militia, as described by the government, and instead told jurors that people were motivated by video clips posted on social media.

He showed the jury video from a tweet sent on April 9, 2014, by former News 3 reporter Sergio Avila, which shows a rough exchange between an officer and a Bundy supporter.

Whipple says it was the video clips that caused people to respond in large numbers as the BLM and other federal agents began to surround the Bundy ranch.

On Wednesday, the jury will hear from Ryan Bundy, who is representing himself, and will make his opening statement in the morning.

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