Prosecution’s Opening Statement
It should be pointed out that Steven Myhre filed a 26 page motion on September 24, 2017 to restrict what the defense could present. “Allegations of workplace misconduct by the Special Agent in Charge of the impoundment, or regarding those who worked for, or with, him” and “Allegations that officers connected with the impoundment acted unethically or improperly by the way they were dressed or equipped during the impoundment, or that they improperly shredded documents during or after impoundment operations.” If this happened it would guarantee a guilty verdict because the jury would not see sealed evidence, including how Dan Love ordered evidence to be shredded.
On the first day of partial freedom Ryan Bundy arrived in front of the courthouse in a white limousine rented by a friend. “This is the first time I have ridden in a limousine,” he told the waiting crowd.
Instead of being on the other side with the other defendants, Ryan sat with supporters in the gallery to watch the hearing of Micah McGuire. McGuire had been part of the security detail during the stand-down and had 11 charges against him. In a plea deal he pleaded guilty to one felony conspiracy charge to impede or injure a federal officer. By accepting the plea deal it would guarantee that he would not serve over 6 years. Judge Navarro set a sentencing date for February 16, 2018.
The 32 year old McGuire had spent 20 months in jail without bail or even a trial date, and then the government offers him a deal that would lessen his sentence and allow him to go free and live with his mother until his sentencing.
Every one asked the question, why couldn’t they have released him 20 months ago? I expect it is because they wanted to punish him as long as possible.
Maguire took the plea deal at the advice of his lawyer who plans to ask for time served. They seem confident that the request will be granted.
Lisa Bundy said this about McGuire, “Micah McGuire is someone that I will always admire. His innocence is real and he is a hero in my eyes. I’m glad he is with his family. He is innocent and no deceitful plea agreement will ever ring true in my eyes…not ever! I’m pretty sure all that Micah was armed with was binoculars…binoculars!”
None of the other defendants are angry that he took the deal. No one blames him. They are happy he is free and with his family.
The defense asked the prosecution to turn over emails from the FBI concerning Dan Love. The prosecution claimed no knowledge of FBI emails and asked for a continuance to gather information from the FBI. Each defense lawyer was asked if they agreed.
Payne’s attorney called for a mistrial.
Ryan Bundy rose and said, “It is ludicrous to have my family imprisoned.” He insisted that his family be released if a continuance was granted. “Your honor, I think it is ludicrous that defendants who have plead guilty through a plea deal are rewarded with freedom from pretrial detention, but if defendants maintain their innocence they are punished with prison prior to any conviction. It is upside down. We are not presumed innocent, if we have to spend time in prison without any conviction. I oppose any continuance and I agree with the other attorneys that the remedy is a mistrial.”
It took guts to say that. His release could have been revoked if that statement had struck a wrong cord with the judge. Ryan stood straight and spoke boldly, mincing no words. It was, in my opinion, a brave, but true statement.
After further discussion Navarro gave the government from November 16-19 to explore evidence. She then seated the jury.
Myhre gave the opening for the government. He talked about the court order given to evacuate the cattle from public land. He noted that no grazing fees were paid after 1993 and the BLM had sued Cliven in 1998 after he refused to obey court orders. In July 2003 Cliven Bundy was given 45 days to remove his cattle. He refused. This is when he said “I will do whatever it takes to protect our property.”
Myhre said the BLM offered to roundup the cattle at their expense, sell them, and give the proceeds to Cliven, but he refused to accept their offer. Myhre acted as though the BLM was doing him a favor by running him out of business.
If Cliven had accepted the BLM’s offer he would have given up his water rights forever, which was the BLM’s ultimate goal.
The prosecution said that in February 2014 Sheriff Gillespie visited Cliven to try and work out a deal and ease tensions, but nothing was accomplished.
Myhre said that helicopters were used to roundup the cattle. What he did not mention was that Bundy cattle were chased and run to death by the helicopters. Nor did he mention how some cows were shot from BLM helicopters and buried in a mass grave. He said nothing about it being calving season and that many of the calves were left without a mother to feed them. Some starved or died of thirst, but that was not mentioned.
Myhre talked about how a call was given for militia to come armed. He claimed that Ryan Payne sent out false emails and social media messages saying that the BLM was there, armed, and ready to take the Bundy cattle. He told how Payne had asked for militia to come to the Bundy ranch to stop the cattle from being taken. He showed photos of militia with guns to prove his point. He then gave a summary of what happened on April 12, 2014 and talked about how frightened the officers were of losing their lives that day.
Myhre gave an account of what happened at an auction site in Richfield, Utah. The cattle were collected by hired cowboys and taken to an auction house to be sold. Ryan Bundy and other protesters traveled to Richfield to stop the sale. He said that signs were hung that said, “Stolen cattle for sale.” Myhre than claimed that Ryan caused a disturbance and threatened force to get the cattle back. He said the sheriff had to be called to stop it.
The prosecution tried to explain away why Dave Bundy was arrested on April 6, 2014. They claimed that Dave and Ryan were on federal land blocking a convoy road. The BLM demanded they leave, but Davey refused. They told Ryan to leave, but refused to go without his brother. Finally, he said, Ryan agreed to leave to avoid being arrested.
According to Myhre, Cliven sent out a social media message saying, “They got my cattle, now they’ve got my boy, and the BLM has us surrounded.”
Next they focused on Ryan Payne and Operation Mutual Aid Defense, saying he reached out on websites for militia help. Payne supposedly sent a message that said, “I’m here as head of Operation Mutual Aid, we are here to prevent tyranny.”
Myhre claimed that the militia was just “looking for something.”
Myhre next brought up Pete Santilli, who does social media broadcasts on his Guerilla Network. He said that On April 9, 2014 Santilli broadcast that the Bundys are being abused. “If you have a gun you need to come and show a show of force.” He then claimed that Santilli blocked a convoy on SR-170.
The government then gave their version of what happened at the protest site when the convoy was blocked. They said that Ammon rammed an ATV into a truck to stop a convoy. He then swung at a BLM agent. After that, Myhre said, Ammon attempted to kick a dog, and that was when he was tased. They even claimed the dog was tased because of Ammon. Myhre also claimed that Ammon grabbed an officer’s arm and was tased the second time.
Myhre claimed that Ammon explained away his actions by saying, “Our whole goal was to make a big enough stink that the sheriff would interfere.”
Myhre closed by saying, “It is not about the Second Amendment, not about a protest, not a statement of beliefs. They get their way at the point of a gun.”
The opening argument was given for the defense by Morgan Philpot. He began by giving some background about the ranch. “Bundy ranch was started in 1877 and had water rights to 11 springs and the river. Cliven bought the ranch from his father in 1962.”
Next he explained that the Desert Tortoise was placed on the Endangered Species List in 1988. Cliven had a survey done by the Fish and Wildlife Service that said the tortoise is in no danger.
The Desert Tortoise was placed on the endangered species list for one reason, to get cattle off the range and run the ranchers out of business. The BLM succeeded in getting rid of 52 ranchers. Cliven Bundy refused to be 53rd.
In 1992 Cliven decided to fight. He knew he would lose his water rights if his cattle were removed from the range. He fought back for the next 25 years.
Philpot talked about how the BLM threatened to use the IRS against him. When Cliven sent a letter the IRS of protest, the action was stopped.
“Once Cliven Bundy and the other ranchers signed a contract,” Philpot explained”the BLM reduced the herd size from 159 cows to 89 per water right.” Ranchers could not make a living.
The BLM claims that Cliven owes one million dollars in grazing and other fees, but the real amount is less than a hundred thousand dollars.
Philpot said that Cliven Bundy had “done whatever it takes” for 25 years. He said the BLM started collecting cattle for 2 weeks beginning on March 28, 2014 and during that time Bundy obeyed the law and protested. He did not interfere, or as the government claims, impede the roundup.
Philpot talked about how BLM and FBI agents with AK-47 rifles were there in full battle gear. Cameras, he said, were moved every night for 7 nights. Something the government denied. On April 6, 2014 Cliven called Metro to help.
Philpot countered the government’s argument that Ryan Payne and Clive Bundy stirred up trouble by sending false messages on social media asking people to come, was not the reason people came. He said that Davy’s beating was the primary cause for people coming. After Davy’s beating Carol Bundy called for help. Another video showing Cliven’s sister, Margaret, a grandmother and cancer survivor, being “hip chucked” to the ground for simply standing and protesting. The prosecution had claimed she had rushed toward a BLM officer, but a video showed proof that she did not.
The prosecution had shown several still photos during opening argument showing Ammon and other protesters in compromising situations. They were presented and explained to the jury in a way to show the protesters and the Bundys in a bad light. When the defense showed video proof debunking the prosecution’s claims, the jury took note.
The prosecution claimed the protesters escalated the standoff with the BLM and FBI, but proof was presented that the operation had been called off the day before. It was shown where Dan Love ignored orders to end the operation, but continued anyway. It was also pointed out that Metro deputies were there to protect the protesters, not to protect the BLM from the protesters as the government claimed. Photos were shown where Metro had their guns trained on BLM snipers who were pointing their weapons on the protesters.
The prosecution made out that people who brought their horses was somehow impeding the BLM from doing their job. Morgan Philpot explained to the jury that in the west cattle were moved with horses. The jury smiled.
“April 12th was a celebration,” Philpot explained, “not a confrontation, but when protesters arrived at the wash they were faced with an army.”
Philpot listed the fatal flaws of the BLM and FBI: (1) The operation had ended the day before; (2) undercover agents were proven to be in with the protesters; (3) and Dan Love’s office had monitors.
Morgan Philpot showed a video of the protestors gathering for prayer at the wash. “They prayed for God’s help,” he said.” He ended by pointing out that people coming to help “had everything to do with what was beating in their chest. They came because they were Americans.”
Ryan Bundy’s Opening Statement
Ryan Bundy arrived at the courthouse on Wednesday November 15, 2017 prepared to give his opening statement. Friends and supporters gathered with Ryan in a prayer circle, as they did every day before trial, to offer a prayer of thanksgiving and to ask for God’s help and direction.
When everyone was seated and the jury was seated and instructed, Judge Navarro asked Ryan if he was ready to give his opening. Ryan walked over to the jury, but before he could get the first word out, Steven Myhre asked the judge to counsel Ryan not to use the Constitution and his personal interpretation when presenting his opening statement. It is a sad day when our Constitution, the very document that governs us, cannot be used in a court of law.
Ryan opened by stating that his family had been on the land for 141 years, long before the BLM existed. They settled in 1877 and water rights were granted in 1890. “We elect people to protect and defend those rights. If you don’t defend those rights, you lose it. Those who control the land control the wealth.” Referring to the statement the government is trying use against him, he said, “We will do whatever it takes is not a threat, but a determination.”
Talking about grazing fees, Ryan said he had heard the government has spent 6 million and possibly up to 100 million to collect 100 thousand dollars. That leaves me to believe that grazing fees is not the real issue. When the BLM put up a sign in their office that read, No moo by ’92 and cattle free by ’93, it suggest to me that they are willing to use any excuse to remove the cattle.
“Sovereignty is with ‘We the People.’ The Bill of Prohibition prevents the government from taking our rights.” Ryan was referring to the First Amendment Areas set up by the BLM, areas he referred to as “pig pens.”
Ryan talked about how he loved growing up on the ranch, the hard work, the good times, what it felt like to be free to roam the range, to go to the mountains, and be with family. He talked about how his family had always offered their home as a place of refuge to anyone who needed it. “No one has ever been turned away,” he said. “Everyone has always been welcomed.” He then invited the jury to visit when the trial was over so they could also enjoy the land as he always had. “You are welcome to come anytime,” he said.
The people that came to help came because they “Felt the spirit of the Lord. They felt freedom. They came because they love America.”
Ryan set the record straight with the jury about the day Davy was beat up and arrested. He and Davy were with their families in separate cars headed home after church when Davy stopped to take pictures of the BLM compound. He was not standing on public land, he explained, but was standing on state land and was not blocking a road as prosecution had claimed. “He was not threatening anyone.”
“Davy was beaten and arrested for taking pictures, he was not threatening anyone.” He paused and looked directly at the jury, and said, “There were 4 snipers on the hill pointing their guns at me.”
Talking the so-called disturbance at the auction house, Ryan said, “Where ever I went I was always in contacted with local law enforcement. I talked to state officials. I talked to local officials−I even talked to the governor. Is that what criminals do?”
Ryan, who has been charged with impeding federal officers from doing their job, emphasized that the BLM rounded up 400 cows and placed them in a corral without him interfering. “I did not impede rounding up of cattle.”
The prosecution accused the cowboys of riding their horses to the corral to forcefully remove the cattle. He pointed out that (Vice-Sheriff) Lombardo “led horses to the corral himself.”
Ryan mentioned that the operation had actually ended the day before and Dan Love had ignored the orders from his boss and the bosses in Washington and continued it anyway. He pointed out that Love and federal officers escalated the situation, not the protesters. He said, “The sheriff finally did his job” by taking control and putting an end to it.
The jury hung on every word Ryan said. It was a spirit filled and professional presentation. When someone praises him for doing such a good job, it bothers him. He does not want to take credit for something God had a hand in.