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
  • OUTDOOR PROGRAM - ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
    St. Lawrence University seeks to fill the position of Assistant Director in the Outdoor Program. To view the complete position description, including minimum qualifications required,...
  • PUBLIC LANDS DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement Conserve Southwest Utah is seeking a dedicated advocate for conservation and public lands Public Lands Director a "make a difference" position Conserve Southwest...
  • FOR SALE
    Yellowstone Llamas Successful Yellowstone NP concession Flexible packages
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT & MARKETING
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners is seeking a full-time Director of Development & Marketing. This is a senior position responsible for the development of all marketing...
  • LEGAL DIRECTOR
    The Legal Director will work closely with the Executive Director in cultivating a renewed vision at NMELC that integrates diversity, equity, and justice. Black, Indigenous,...
  • VICE PRESIDENT, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION
    The Vice President for Landscape Conservation leads Defenders' work to promote landscape-scale wildlife conservation, focusing on four program areas: federal public lands management; private lands...
  • NOVA SCOTIA OCEAN FRONT
    Camp or Build on 2+ acres in Guysborough. FSBO. $36,000 US firm. Laurie's phone: 585-226-2993 EST.
  • COMMUNITY FORESTER
    The Clearwater Resource Council located in Seeley Lake, Montana is seeking a full-time community forester with experience in both fuels mitigation and landscape restoration. Resumes...
  • GUNNISON BASIN ROUNDTABLE
    The Gunnison Basin Roundtable is currently accepting letters of interest for ten elected seats. Five of the elected members must have relevant experience in the...
  • PCTA TRAIL CREW TECHNICAL ADVISORS IN WASHINGTON'S NORTH CASCADES
    Seasonal Positions: June 17th to September 16th (14 weeks) - 3 positions to be filled The mission of the Pacific Crest Trail Association is to...
  • WE'RE LOOKING FOR LEADERS!
    As we celebrate 50 years of great Western journalism, High Country News is looking for a few new board members to help set a course...
  • MEMBERSHIP DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement Job Title: Membership Director Supervisor: Executive Director Salary: Up to $65,000/year DOE Benefits: Generous benefits package — health insurance, Simple IRA and unlimited...
  • UTAH PUBLIC LANDS MANAGER
    Who we are: Since 1985, the Grand Canyon Trust has been a leading voice in regional conservation on the Colorado Plateau. From protecting the Grand...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Executive Director Walker Basin Conservancy Reno & Yerington, NV Background The Walker Basin Conservancy (Conservancy) leads the effort to restore and maintain Walker Lake while...
  • WIND RIVER WRITERS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS RETREAT BY THE NATIONAL BIGHORN SHEEP CENTER
    Enhance your writing or photography skills with world-class instructors in the beautiful Wind River Mountains. All skill levels welcome. Continuing education credits available.
  • EARTH CRUISER FX FOR SALE
    Overland Vehicle for travel on or off road. Fully self contained. Less than 41,000 miles. Recently fully serviced Located in Redmond, OR $215'000.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    identifies suspect buried trash, tanks, drums &/or utilities and conducts custom-designed subsurface investigations that support post-damage litigation.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    They [Northern Plains] confound the common view that ordinary people are powerless in the face of industry. - Billings Gazette editorial The venerable Northern Plains...
  • SMALL FARM AT BASE OF MOUNT SHASTA, CALIF.
    Certified organic fruit/berry/veggie/flower farm. Small home, 2 barns (one has an apartment), and more. Approx. two acres just in the City limits. Famously pure air...
  • TAOS HORNO ADVENTURES
    A Multicultural Culinary Memoir Informed by History and Horticulture. Richard and Annette Rubin. At nighthawkpress.com/titles and Amazon.