Protesters On Trial
by Shari Dovale
The retrial of four Bunkerville defendants is underway in Las Vegas, Nevada. The first trial ended in a mistrial when the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict.
It is known that the jury favored acquittal in the previous trial with 2 of the defendants receiving 10-2 votes in their favor.
Additionally, the jury forms showed marks indicating acquittal, which were later scratched out over confusion on legal points.
However, the government has learned a few lessons since then. They have attempted to change their narrative to reconcile with, what they hope will be, a more popular view of their prosecution.
During the first trial, the prosecutors, including AUSA Steven Myhre, and Judge Gloria Navarro, spent considerable time calling the large group of protesters “unindicted co-conspirators”. They stressed to potential witnesses that their testimony on behalf of the defendants could result in their own prosecution. This resulted in claims of witness intimidation and more.
Judge Navarro has also taken an unusual step in the second trial by allowing the jurors to ask questions of the witnesses. This was, apparently, in hopes of changing the course of their prosecution to conform with what they believe the jurors wanted to hear.
The jury questions have shown that the members have been paying attention and are not completely on board with the government’s narrative. This has prompted changes from the government to alter their strategy.
Through the beginning of the trial, they did not make too many changes from the strategy of the first trial. I heard “unindicted co-conspirator” a couple of times, including from Judge Navarro.
All of a sudden, the prosecution witnesses are using new, yet specific, buzzwords during their testimony You will now hear “Constitution” and “Second Amendment” used on the witness stand, though it has yet to be announced that the defense will be allowed to use these same terms.
The most prominent witness to attempt the change of narrative was Ranger Edwin Whitteaker and his repeated use of these buzzwords. It was still obvious, however, that he had never read the Constitution, nor does he understand it’s concepts as he referred to the 2nd Amendment as the right to “Free Speech”.
Why are these points so important?
Former Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote, “Peaceable assembly for lawful discussion cannot be made a crime.”
Remember that the government is now calling the people in the wash “Protesters”. This gives them First Amendment protection. They have the right to assemble. They have the right to question their government.
They utilized their Second Amendment protections during this protest, as has been noted by the prosecution witnesses. Nevada is an “Open Carry” state.
“Open carry” refers to the practice of carrying firearms in plain view in public spaces. Though most states continue to require a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon in public, most states now place few to no restrictions on open carry.
Therefore, the government’s big push to keep these right-wing dissidents in custody is all about a show of force to the general public that they cannot protest their government.
The Federal government has not placed the same restrictions on liberal groups, as is noted from the “Occupy Wall Street” and related protests. You will also note that the Ferguson riots were written off as the rights of free speech. However, the violence and destruction that were considered breaking the law were not prosecuted and the business owners were left to deal with these issues through their insurance companies.
The Bunkerville Standoff is noteworthy in that there was no violence on the part of the protesters. There were no shots fired though there were many firearms visible. There was no rioting, brawling or other altercation. The only “beef” you would see was Cliven Bundy’s cattle.
The government would have you believe, as per the testimony given in this trial, that the protesters came with violence in mind. The law enforcement officers were caught unawares and by surprised, therefore, they were in fear for their life. This is completely not true.
The officers knew that the protesters were coming. They had already begun negotiations to release the cattle. There were hundreds of law enforcement, from multiple agencies, on scene. They were not dressed in “riot gear” but in full battle gear and fully armed. There were snipers on the high mesa aiming their weapon at the men, women, and children in the wash and on the bridge.
Law enforcement showed aggression on April 12, 2014 in Bunkerville, Nevada. They sent a message to the world that right-wing, Constitution-citing, dissidents will not be tolerated.