Greg Burleson: Life in Prison for Facebook Posts
by Staff Writer
By far the longest sentence handed down thus far in any of the “Bundy” cases was given to Arizona militia man Greg Burleson on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Burleson looked sunken, shaggy and disheveled as he sat in a wheelchair in yellow jail clothes in his Las Vegas, Nevada sentencing hearing. He suffers from seizures and has become blind during the past two years.
Nonetheless, Nevada’s Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro sentenced Burleson (who is 53 but now appears much older) to spend 68 years in federal prison for his relatively minor role in the April 12, 2014 Bunkerville standoff roughly 80 miles north of Las Vegas. Burleson was convicted of assaulting federal officers, threatening federal officers, extortion, using a firearm in crimes of violence, and related offenses. Unlike inmates at some state levels (who can be paroled after a few years), federal inmates must serve at least 85 percent of their time. Burleson was also sentenced to pay $1.5 million in “restitution” (supposedly to compensate the government for costs of impounding 400 of Cliven Bundy’s cattle in 2014.) Navarro ordered Burleson to pay $25 per quarter toward restitution while he is in prison.
Burleson will almost certainly die in prison for merely walking around the Bunkerville protest with a rifle slung in low position. Legal experts say he may have a good chance at reversing his convictions on appeal. (The most damning evidence against Burleson were his own edgy statements given—after the fact—to a fake documentary film crew secretly operated by the FBI; Burleson was plied with alcohol as he bragged about wanting to chop the head off of a BLM official with an axe and about how he regretted that the 2014 event ended peacefully.)
In April 2014, Burleson was the sole member of his own independent Arizona militia when he learned about the BLM’s bullying and mistreatment of the Bundy family in nearby Nevada. Burleson drove to the growing protest after the event had already begun, and immediately strapped on his rifle and entered the wash where numerous protesters found themselves in the rifle sights of BLM and National Park Service officials. He provided basic security for the crowd. No photo shows him raising his firearm or aiming it in any direction.
Of all 19 defendants, Burleson may have spent the least amount of time at the protest event. But upon returning to his home in Phoenix, Burleson posted numerous extreme, scary and provocative comments on Facebook. It seems he bragged about doing things he did not do. Later, when interviewed by the FBI’s undercover “Longbow Productions” documentary filmmakers, Burleson made absurdly theatrical statements, including bragging that he went to the Bundy Ranch “to kill federal agents.”
It is especially ironic that Burleson himself has been an FBI informant in the past. This issue remains somewhat mysterious, and many observers continue to have more questions than answers about the precise scope of Burleson’s past assistance to the FBI. Cliven Bundy has filed a motion seeking to obtain Burleson’s complete FBI records, but prosecutors are opposing the motion. It seems that Burleson assisted the FBI in a 2012 multiple-murder investigation involving Arizona militia member J. T. Ready.
At the July 26 sentencing, Judge Navarro made a point of giving Burleson a 10-point reduction in his sentencing score based on the combination of Burleson’s medical issues, alcoholism, and past assistance to law enforcement. Thus, Burleson’s 68-year sentence was actually lower than the 87 years that prosecutors had recommended.
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