Prosecutors in Bunkerville Retrial Rely on Deception
by Staff Writer
The chaotic events of “Bundy standoff” near Bunkerville, Nevada on April 12, 2014 were captured on hundreds of cameras. There is video from almost every angle (including from multiple surveillance aircraft flying above). The feds occupied the high ground (despite what they claim in court) and were filming by dash-cams, body cams and handheld cameras. Nevada Highway Patrol had two (2) vehicles positioned on the all-important northbound bridge of I-15 with dash-cams rolling continuously. The standoff may have been one of the most well-recorded spontaneous crowd events in history.
But prosecutors in the Bunkerville retrial of Rick Lovelien, Scott Drexler, Eric Parker and Steven Stewart have sought to severely limit the video and photographic evidence that the jury is allowed to see. The untold thousands of images of the events known to exist do not support the government’s claims in the indictment. Although dozens if not hundreds of FBI agents have spent 3 years pouring over the imagery in an effort to find images of any of the four defendants (or any Bundy supporter, for that matter) pointing weapons at federal agents, they have failed to produce one.
For the most part, photos and video show the defendants holding guns in safe manner, either pointed downward toward the ground or in a vertical position with barrels upward. It seems that Rick Lovelein’s rifle was slung on his back throughout the entire event. The rifles of Parker and Drexler were (apparently for a short period) positioned between cracks in concrete barriers on a northbound bridge of I-15. But it is significant that Parker and Drexler’s prone positions occurred near the end of the “standoff,” after BLM agents drastically escalated their threats to use force against unarmed women and children.
Parker’s weapon had no scope and experts say it could not have been used for accurate shooting at the given distances if gunfire had broken out. At best, Parker may have been able to provide defensive overhead cover fire in the event that federal agents began killing people. Such protective fire could have made agents seek cover, thereby saving lives.
It is also significant that two Nevada State Troopers were patrolling and doing traffic control on the bridge while Parker and Drexler lay prone. Parker testified in the first trial that one trooper even conversed with him as he was on the pavement.
In order to convict the 4 defendants of assaulting federal officers, threatening federal officers, extortion, using firearms in crimes of violence and other offenses, prosecutors must emphasize agents’ testimony that the agents saw guns pointed at them while concealing all imagery which refutes such statements. The government’s strategy is therefore one of concealment and deception. Thus far the rulings of Judge Gloria Navarro seem to give prosecutors an avenue to carry out this strategy.
On the morning of July 10, 2017—just as defense lawyers were preparing for jury selection in the trial Judge Navarro granted the prosecution’s “motion in limine” prohibiting the defense from bringing up BLM conduct, or any of the events leading up to the April 12, 2014 protest. Prosecutors have been vigorously objecting to any attempt by the defense to introduce photos or video which contradicts prosecution witness testimony. And almost every government witness claims to have no recollection of sequence or timing, thereby making it difficult to show an image that clearly refutes the witness’s testimony.
On Thursday, July 27, 2017, an anonymous juror asked a simple written question to a witness: will the jury ever get to see images from different angles? Judge Navarro intercepted the question and told the jurors that most trials have no photos at all and are based only on witness testimony. It is an “unreasonable expectation,” Navarro told jurors, to expect to see photos from additional perspectives. Of course Navarro knows there are numerous pictures which would discredit the witness’s claims (as many were shown in the previous trial). But Navarro suggested that jurors are to focus on the testimony of the government witnesses.
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