State Politics

1/3 of Idaho lawmakers ask AG Sessions to back off Bundy case

Protester Eric Parker from Hailey aims his weapon from a bridge next to the Bureau of Land Management's base camp, where seized cattle belonging to rancher Cliven Bundy were being held near Bunkerville, Nevada, April 12, 2014.
Protester Eric Parker from Hailey aims his weapon from a bridge next to the Bureau of Land Management's base camp, where seized cattle belonging to rancher Cliven Bundy were being held near Bunkerville, Nevada, April 12, 2014. Reuters

Two failed trials is enough, some Republican legislators say.

Thirty-four Idaho lawmakers — one-third of the full combined House and Senate — sent a letter Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking him to get Nevada federal prosecutors to relax their pursuit of four Idahoans charged or convicted in connection with the 2014 Bunkerville standoff in Nevada.

“We believe that the decision by the current U.S. attorney to Nevada to prosecute these men a third time represents disrespect for the rule of law and the jury system,” states the letter signed by 26 House members and eight Senate members, along with five retired lawmakers.

You can read the letter at this link.

On Friday, a federal judge set a trial date for Oct. 10, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The four men, Ammon Bundy, of Emmett; Eric Parker, of Hailey; Scott Drexler, of Challis; and Todd Engel, of Boundary County, were among nearly 20 defendants arrested in early 2016 as part of a nationwide roundup regarding the armed standoff against federal law enforcement officers that took place in April 2014. The federal officials tried rounding up cattle that belonged to rancher Cliven Bundy, who had refused for years to pay grazing fees.

State Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, is the letter’s lead author. Others with their names affixed include House Majority Leader Mike Moyle; Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane; Treasure Valley Sens. Clifford Bayer and Lori Den Hartog; and Treasure Valley Reps. Judy Boyle, Christy Perry, Brandon Hixon, Greg Chaney, Joe Palmer, James Holtzclaw, Steve Harris and Jason Monks.

“I think it is a complete injustice and a waste of taxpayer money and time to continue to go after these guys after two mistrials,” said Rep. Boyle, from Midvale.

“Let it go. We are not talking about murders, robberies, druggies, rapists. It is continuing to waste the court’s time and federal taxpayers’ money. I know the federal government wants to make a point, but get over it.”

The Statesman has reached out to all lawmakers who affixed their name to the letter and will update this post with any responses.

Ammon Bundy, who was found not guilty in the Malheur, Ore., standoff case, remains in custody without bail awaiting trial for the Nevada incident. In the latter, he’s charged with conspiracy, assault and other felonies.

Parker, who was photographed aiming his high-powered rifle at federal agents near the Bundy Ranch in Nevada — a lasting image that went worldwide — and Drexler have been tried twice in the case. In the first trial the jury deadlocked on all charges filed against the two. In the second trial, which ended Aug. 22, both were acquitted on nearly all charges. The jury deadlocked again on assault and weapons charges, which may return if prosecutors decide to make a third attempt.

Todd Engel, of Boundary County, was convicted in the first trial of obstruction and traveling across state lines in aid of extortion. His sentencing is set for Sept. 28.

The legislators asked Sessions to “have those in charge of this case end this long enduring action and set Eric Parker and Scott Drexler free, set reasonable bail for Ammon Bundy and allow Todd Engel to use his time served as total sentencing.”

“Further exploitation of these citizens would be an affront to justice and notice to the public of prosecutorial harassment.”

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

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