Bunkerville defendant seeks trial postponement

In wake of Las Vegas shooting, Ryan Payne wants jury selection delayed.

 

Update: In a court hearing Oct. 6, the trial was postponed to begin Oct. 30 in Las Vegas.

A key defendant in an upcoming trial for Cliven Bundy and his supporters has asked for a postponement, following Sunday night’s deadly shooting in Las Vegas.

Ryan Payne, a defendant in the Nevada trial related to the 2014 armed standoff with the federal government, says jury selection — scheduled for next week — should not be held so soon after the mass shooting.

“This unprecedented act of violence will prevent the defendants from having a fair trial in this city one week from now,” defense attorneys said in a motion filed Oct. 2. The lawyers wrote that no matter how extensive the selection process, the jury will most likely be “biased” because of the shock and outrage in the wider Las Vegas community in the wake of the shooting, which left 59 people dead, including the shooter, and hundreds more wounded. 

The Bunkerville trial revolves around the face-off between hundreds of armed supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy and federal agents tasked with impounding 1,000 head of Bundy Ranch cattle.

Rancher Cliven Bundy, center, flanked by armed supporters, speaks at a protest camp near Bunkerville, Nevada, following the April 2014 standoff.
AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, John Locher

Defendants face charges that include conspiracy to impede or injure federal officers and use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. The government’s case hinges in part on photos and videos of some defendants carrying rifles and pointing them in the direction of law enforcement agents. Payne’s attorneys say these images will link the defendants to the Las Vegas massacre in the minds of the jurors.

“The shooter is a white male reported to be from Mesquite, Nevada — only a few miles away from the Bundy ranch and the site of the April 12, 2014, events in the wash by Highway I-15,” Payne’s motion reads. “Regardless of the facts, when and if they all come to light, many people have and will associate (the shooter) with Cliven Bundy and his supporters.”

Payne, a self-styled militia leader from Montana, is requesting next week’s trial date be postponed at least 60 days, when “Payne and the other parties have been able to assess the impact of the tragedy,” and to allow for “the passage of time to cool prospective jurors’ tempers.” U.S. District of Nevada Judge Gloria Navarro has yet to rule on the motion.

Defendant Ryan Bundy’s standby counsel indicated on Tuesday that her client could oppose Payne’s motion to delay the trial, according to court filings. Ammon Bundy’s attorney said his client supports the motion.

In addition to the request to postpone, another defendant, Pete Santilli, has agreed to plead guilty to felony conspiracy. His attorney, Chris Rasmussen, has withdrawn all pending motions on behalf of his client. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Rasmussen took the deal in part because the Las Vegas shooting “made him realize that this is a difficult case in trying to defend Second Amendment rights…. People aren’t going to be in the mood to hear about gunmen.” The paper also reported that plea deals for defendants Scott Drexler and Eric Parker were mentioned in court on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, defendant Gregory Burleson, who was found guilty of several charges this summer and sentenced to 68 years in prison for his part in the standoff, is preparing to appeal his case.

A hearing is scheduled for this Friday to address Payne’s motion to postpone the upcoming trial, if the motion is not resolved before then.  

Tay Wiles is an associate editor at High Country News. She can be reached at [email protected] 

High Country News Classifieds
  • CARDIGAN WELSH CORGIS
    10 adorable, healthy puppies for sale. 4 males and 6 females. DM and PRA clear. Excellent pedigree from champion lineage. One Red Brindle male. The...
  • A CHILDREN'S BOOK FOR THE CLIMATE CRISIS!!
    "Goodnight Fossil Fuels!" is a an engaging, beautiful, factual and somewhat silly picture book by a climate scientist and a climate artist, both based in...
  • DIGITAL ADVOCACY & MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    The Digital Advocacy & Membership Manager will be responsible for creating and delivering compelling, engaging digital content to Guardians members, email activists, and social media...
  • DIGITAL OUTREACH COORDINATOR, ARIZONA
    Job Title: Digital Outreach Coordinator, Arizona Position Location: Phoenix or Tucson, AZ Status: Salaried Job ID Number: 52198 We are looking for you! We are...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks an experienced fundraiser to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator who is passionate about conservation and...
  • INDIAN COUNTRY FELLOWSHIP
    Western Leaders Network is accepting applications for its paid, part-time, 6-month fellowship. Mentorship, training, and engaging tribal leaders in advancing conservation initiatives and climate policy....
  • MULESHOE RANCH PRESERVE MANAGER
    The Muleshoe Ranch Preserve Manager develops, manages, and advances conservation programs, plans and methods for large-scale geographic areas. The Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area (MRCMA)...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 52 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • ASSISTANT OR ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES
    Assistant or Associate Professor of Environmental Humanities Whitman College The Environmental Humanities Program at Whitman College seeks candidates for a tenure-track position beginning August 2023...
  • ANNUAL FUND MANAGER
    Working closely with the Foundation's leadership, the Annual Fund Manager is responsible for the oversight and management of the Foundation's annual operating fund. This is...
  • DATABASE ADMINISTRATOR
    Looking for someone who loves public land and understands the value and importance of data in reaching shared goals as part of a high-functioning team....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) in Crested Butte, CO is seeking an enthusiastic Executive Director who is passionate about the public lands, natural waters and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with volunteer management experience to join...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The conservation non-profit Invasive Species Action Network seeks an executive director. We are focused on preventing the human-caused spread of invasive species by promoting voluntary...
  • NEW BOOK: A FEAST OF ECSTATIC VERSE AND IMAGERY
    Dynamic fine art photographer offers use of images to raise funds. Available for use by conservation groups. Contact at www.anecstaticgathering.com.
  • WANTED: TALENTED WRITER
    Write the introduction to A Feast of Ecstatic Verse and Imagery, a book concerning nature and spirituality. Contact at www.anecstaticgathering.com. Writer who works for conservation/nature...
  • MT STATE DIRECTOR- THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
    The Montana State Director is a member of The Wilderness Society's (TWS) Conservation program team who plays a leading role in advancing the organization's mission...
  • HIGH COUNTRY NEWS EDITORIAL INTERNS
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, is looking for its next cohort of editorial interns....
  • THE MAGICAL UNIVERSE OF THE ANCIENTS: A DESERT JOURNAL
    Bears Ears, Chaco Canyon, and other adventures in the Four Corners area. 60 photos and lively journals. Purchase hc $35 or pb $25 from bigwoodbooks.com...