Bunkerville Standoff: Judge Navarro Blinks!
By Shari Dovale
Today brought a full day of court hearings in the Bunkerville Standoff trial.
The Tier 1 defendants, considered the leaders of the Bunkerville Protest, were scheduled to begin jury selection on October 10th. Several motion hearings were scheduled for this week.
Then the Las Vegas shooting took place on October 1st.
The day began with Pete Santilli changing his plea to guilty for Felony Conspiracy for his role in the protest. He was released on his own recognizance with several stipulations to be followed before his scheduled sentencing on Jan 11, 2018. It is expected for Santilli to receive time-served plus probation. It was noted on the record that Santilli will not be testifying at the upcoming trial.
Ryan and Ammon Bundy have not been in the courtroom for their hearings. They have protested the mandatory strip searches performed by the Pahrump Detention Center. It was not much different today.
Judge Gloria Navarro finally seemed concerned this week that a resolution could not be found for this issue. Both defendants have made it clear that they want to attend the proceedings but were being singled out by guards at the prison for retaliatory action in the form of these strip searches.
Evidence was put forth that indicated the Pahrump Detention Center may be going too far with these particular defendants. Judge Navarro finally agreed that a change was appropriate and ordered the men to be moved to the Henderson Jail. The order included that the men were not to be stripped before leaving Pahrump. This order covered Ryan and Ammon Bundy, as well as Ryan Payne.
During the hearings today, Ryan Bundy was denied his right to represent himself. The judge felt that he was not making sense to the court, and could be getting some very bad advice from someone on his legal team.
Bundy’s assigned stand-by counsel, Angela Dows, requested, and was granted, a withdrawl from the case. A new attorney was assigned to represent Bundy, until it was determined that the scheduling conflicted would not allow him to accept the case. A new attorney will be found for Ryan next week.
For a short time, there was discussion on Ryan being moved to the third trial, so as to give a new attorney time to prepare for the case. AUSA Myhre objected to that and stated that Ryan knew the case and could get his attorney up to speed. This might have been possible if the attorney could have been secured.
It is also to be determined as to whether or not the attorney will be fully handling the case or whether it will be a stand-by attorney with Ryan defending himself. Despite the problems in the courtroom earlier, Judge Navarro made indications that she is open to reinstating Ryan if she felt he was competent.
Quite a lot of discussion ensued on whether to delay the trial, or even change the venue, due to the shooting event on October 1st.
A request was made to move the trial to Reno. This was denied by Judge Navarro.
Several delays, from 30-90 days, were requested and considered. Navarro agreed to a short delay and scheduled a status hearing on October 24th, with a new tentative trial date set on October 30th.
Todd Leventhal, attorney for Scott Drexler, stated in court that he had based his schedule on the original trial date and could not change his plans. He may not be available for a trial during the holidays. Watch for motions on this issue in the near future.
I do wonder how the defendants will react to another delay, as they have already been detained for 21 months without a trial.
It is understandable that Judge Navarro had no control over the issues requiring the delay, but neither did these defendants. They deserve more than the benefit of the doubt, at this point.
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