Prosecutors Seek Sanctions Against Steven Stewart’s Attorney
by Staff Writer
The U.S. Justice Department is pulling no punches in the “Bunkerville Retrial” of Eric Parker, Steven Stewart, Scott Drexler and Rick Lovelein currently underway in a federal courtroom in Las Vegas, Nevada.
During morning arguments on Tuesday, July 25, 2017, Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre demanded that Judge Gloria Navarro impose sanction and punishment on the defense team, especially Steven Stewart’s court-appointed attorney Richard Tanasi. Prosecutors argued that Tanasi crossed a line during questioning of a witness the day before.
With the jury outside the courtroom, and the audience barely in their seats, Myrhe accused Tanasi of knowingly violating an ‘order in limine’ which prohibits the defense from mentioning forbidden topics. The day before, while questioning a witness named Trey Schillie, Tanasi had asked if Schillie feared being shot by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents. The topic of BLM conduct is strictly off limits according to an order imposed by the Judge just before the start of trial.
Trey Schillie, a tourist on vacation (who happened to be employed by the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado) was driving on I-15 northbound on April 12, 2014 when he found himself in the heart of the famed “Bundy standoff” that day. Schillie parked his car on the roadside and walked over to see what was happening. He took several now-famous photographs of the protesters in the wash below the bridge, and of the crowd on top of the northbound bridge. Among his photos was one of Defendant Eric Parker prone on the bridge with a rifle positioned in a crack between the bridge’s concrete barriers.
At the end of his direct testimony and cross-examination, the jurors asked a series of questions of Schillie, and Schillie responded that he felt fear while standing on the bridge taking pictures. This left an obvious question that badly needed to be resolved: did Schillie feel fear from the protesters surrounding him on the bridge or from the armed BLM agents aiming weapons in his direction down below? The photos show several people (not just Parker) in crouching positions behind the concrete, indicating a fear on the bridge that federal agents might open fire on them.
Attorney Tanasi was virtually compelled to ask the obvious question of Mr. Schillie. Tanasi sought to pin down the witness, first asking if Schillie saw anyone on the bridge pointing weapons at him. Then Tanasi asked Schillie to affirm that the BLM agents at a distance in the Wash below were pointing weapons in his direction. The prosecution objected immediately, and Schillie never answered.
Trial continued with another witness on the afternoon of the 24th. But Tanasi’s ‘source-of-fear’ question was the focus of the prosecution the following morning. Prosecutor Myrhe demanded that Tanasi be punished for asking a forbidden question. Judge Navarro asked Myrhe what punishment he would recommend, and Myrhe responded that the defense (not just Tanasi but all the defense lawyers) should be made to disclose to the prosecution their closing arguments. The prosecution also demanded an instruction to the jury that BLM conduct is not an issue in the trial.
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