Rancher Cliven Bundy no longer faces federal charges in the 2014 Nevada standoff, but that doesn’t mean his legal fight with the Justice Department is over.
Attorney Larry Klayman said Mr. Bundy is considering filing lawsuits for malicious prosecution and civil-rights violations stemming from the court battle that ended Monday with a federal judge dismissing all charges against him over “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct.”
Mr. Klayman, a conservative activist and former Justice Department lawyer who has represented Mr. Bundy on other matters, said the newly freed 71-year-old rancher may also file ethics complaints against federal prosecutors.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gloria Navarro “didn’t dismiss this matter out of the goodness of her heart. It was like rats fleeing a sinking ship,” Mr. Klayman said.
“But what she said was extremely strong against prosecutors and against the FBI in particular,” he said. “This is yet the latest FBI scandal. [She] accused them of lying and hiding evidence, calling it ‘outrageous.’ “
Indeed, Judge Navarro didn’t hold back, blasting prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Nevada for willfully withholding potentially exculpatory evidence from the defense, including FBI surveillance and sniper records from the April 2014 confrontation at the Bundy ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada.
“The court finds that the universal sense of justice has been violated,” Judge Navarro said, as quoted in the Arizona Republic. “The government conduct in this case was, indeed, outrageous.”
Federal prosecutors had argued that their failure to turn over evidence was “inadvertent” and “regrettable,” but she dismissed all charges against Mr. Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and Ryan Payne of Montana.
The prosecution promptly came under fire for bungling what once looked like an open-and-shut case against the four defendants, billed as the ringleaders of the standoff with the Bureau of Land Management over Cliven Bundy’s longstanding refusal to pay grazing fees in a protest against federal lands policy.
Hundreds of the family’s supporters, some of them armed, descended on the area after BLM agents tried to impound 400 head of Bundy cattle, forcing them to cancel the operation.
“The case shines a bright light on the perils of the federal bureaucracy’s confrontational approach to those who live and work on or near the vast tracts of public land that constitute much of the rural West, particularly in Nevada,” said the Las Vegas Review-Journal in a Monday editorial, describing the failed prosecution as “a casualty of federal hubris.”
Mr. Bundy is also weighing a lawsuit to settle the beef over who owns the ranch property by “filing for declaratory relief that the land is Nevada land, not federal land,” Mr. Klayman said.
The notoriously litigious founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch, Mr. Klayman had previously filed complaints on behalf of Mr. Bundy asking the Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility and Office of the Inspector General to probe allegations of misconduct.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he had ordered an expert review of the case shortly after Judge Navarro declared a mistrial on Dec. 20.
“So now there’s real teeth for the OPR investigation and IG investigation that I requested in a complaint, and Sessions should be looking into all of that,” Mr. Klayman said. “These prosecutors will most likely wind up not just being disciplined by the Department of Justice, but they could lose their licenses. It’s that bad.”
Adding to the Justice Department’s woes is a newly released Nov. 27 memo from BLM investigator Larry C. Wooten, who faulted BLM agents for “unacceptable bias” against the Bundys, including hostility to Mormons, and accused federal prosecutors of attempting to cover up the misconduct.
Mr. Klayman was a familiar figure in the Las Vegas courtroom, appearing regularly and taking notes despite being prevented by Judge Navarro from sitting at the defense table with Bret Whipple, Cliven Bundy’s defense attorney.
Interim U.S. Attorney Dayle Elieson, who took over for Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre on Friday, issued a statement after the ruling saying that prosecutors “respect the court’s ruling and will make a determination about the next appropriate steps.”
The final phase in the three-tier standoff trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 26 with the remaining four defendants, who include Mr. Bundy’s sons David and Melvin.