Trial of the Century
Ryan Bundy Opening Statement
November 15, 2017.
Thanks to the jurors for being here. I told you a little about myself at voir dire, but I’d like to introduce myself a little more, and tell you about my heritage and how that affects my case. (Projects a picture of his family – AND leaves it up throughout his statement!)
This is my ID! Not my driver’s license. This is who I am, a man with a family and I’ll do whatever it takes to provide for them. I want you to picture in your minds…you’re out on the land… I’ll take you to our ranch, you can see all the beauty of the land, the fresh air, sunsets and sunrises, the brush, you’re on a horse in front of the cattle – place yourself there – feel the freedom – out of the congestion of the cars – that’s how I was raised, playing in the river, we were called river-rats and that is where my life began and I hope ends.
My family has been on that land 141 years, my pioneer ancestors settled there in 1877 – there was nothing there. They carved out a living… they brought a horse and wagon and some provisions… this case, the government mentioned is “not about rights”, but it is – those rights do mean something – rights are created through beneficial use.
When my ancestors arrived, undoubtedly the horse would need a drink, so they led him to the water and that is beneficial use. The horse and perhaps a cow that had been led behind the wagon need to eat some brush in the hills, that is beneficial use. That established rights. The water rights are real! So real, the State of Nevada has a water rights registry including livestock watering rights. A law was created to protect those rights. The water rights that my father owns were first registered in 1891 by the State of Nevada – the State of Nevada is important, a sovereign state, its own unit, which entered the union in 1864. It entered equal to the original states, it is its own entity and state laws are important.
My family and I are charged with some grievous things and they are not true and evidence will show they are not; force, manipulation, extortion, violent—my family is not a violent family and I am not a violent man. For 20+ years we turned to local law enforcement. Rights are real property. The fact is that we create government to protect rights.
To have rights you must claim, use and defend… man only has rights he is willing to claim, use and defend. There is a difference between rights and privileges. Rights you own. Privilege is afforded. Like renting or owning a house. Government asserts there are no rights, only privileges and unless we pay, we can’t be there. The State of Nevada says differently. These are my father’s rights. Everything we have comes from the land. That is wealth, not the dollar bill. The things we use all come from the land. Who controls the land, controls the wealth?
We create government to preserve and serve us. These are some of the beliefs of my family. That we have said we will do whatever it takes to defend is not a threat, it is a statement. Being right here before you today is part of doing whatever it takes. The Founding Fathers pledged whatever it would take… their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, to defend rights. With the evidence you will see that is what we were doing; there was no conspiracy to impede, to harm… but, to protect our heritage that our pioneer ancestors established. We were attacked, surrounded by what appeared to be mercenaries, snipers pointed directly at me. You will hear a report from a sniper that he was keeping watch of me in my van, with my wife and two of my daughters with me.
Our ranch – children are always welcome – it is a place to play, play in the river, the pond, chase or hunt rabbits, burn your toes in the hot sand in summer—always free. Never before did we feel like someone was always watching. In early spring of 2014 we felt like someone was always watching… the dogs were watching the hills, when you are always with a dog you get to know what they are saying with their bark… you can tell by their bark what they are seeing… surveillance cameras on one hill, but the dog looking at another and growling… (tearfully) This is not what America is supposed to be. Supposed to be a land of liberty. The Founding Fathers fought and bled so we wouldn’t have to and now we find ourselves in a similar situation.
They say this issue is over grazing fees… it’s terrible, terrible, he must be a freeloader – it’s only rhetoric – I’ll tell you why – You don’t pay rent when you own your home! We own those rights! Not the land, I know we don’t own the land, but access…you and others have rights on that land. We own water and grazing rights. We don’t pay rent for something we own.
The BLM was formed in 1960. Our rights were established in 1877, long before BLM. The original states own 100% of their land and all states were to come in on equal footing. The crux of the issue is, are we a state or not? They say grazing is a privilege they can revoke and charge fees. If it is only a matter of money it is no problem. In fact, Mr. Whipple showed a copy of a check made out to Clark County. If the whole purpose is to show we owe a fee, then we’ll pay to the proper owner of the land. That was not the only check written to Clark County, we sent several.
Also, in Clark County, there were 53 ranchers who owned rights. There is only a single one still out on the range. The BLM is not gaining revenue, it’s not important to them. My father could see they were there to manage him out of business. It’s not about grazing fees. In the BLM office there were signs that read: No more Moo by ‘92 and Cattle Free by ‘93! If it were only about the grazing fees, the fees would have been under $100,000 over 25 years. It is rumored, it may not be seen in evidence, but it is rumored that they spent $6 million on the operation. Who spends that and court costs rumored to be over $100 million to collect $100,000?
What is this about? The court orders. They say my father had an opportunity in the courts. The court wouldn’t consider state’s rights. They have forgotten they are servants of the people. We the people are the sovereign and ultimately, we the people are the government formed to meet needs that are better met by a group than by individuals. We are not slaves. We need to remember that. I think that’s forgotten. The definition of freedom is lost in America. When we have to have a license or ask permission to do everything, we are subjects.
Back to the charges – they claimed I went to Richfield and that the sheriff had to be called because we were causing such a ruckus—evidence will show otherwise—we boycott to influence to change ways – we protest to cause a change – these are first amendment rights – we do not get rights from the Bill of Rights – we have rights to begin with – it should be called the Prohibition of Government – we have freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, we can petition for a redress of grievances—rights we don’t want the government to mess with.
A redress is to find an answer, find a solution – one way to protest. The BLM put up first amendment zones – not much bigger than this courtroom – we called them pig pens – by creating that area, they were denying our right everywhere else – that’s what they used to arrest my brother – he was outside the pig pens. The first amendment has been protected over and over again in our history.
There’s lots of media in the gallery today, they wouldn’t be happy to have their right to free speech taken. First amendment was put in the Supreme Law of the land, the Constitution – they shall make no law restricting these things… as you saw in the video yesterday, my brother was not impeding, not blocking, he was on a state road, on its right-of-way, simply to take pictures with his iPad of them stealing our cattle – they attacked him, threw him to the ground, rubbed his face in the ground. (emotional)
The American public saw this and came not to impede or do harm. They came because they felt the spirit of the Lord, spirit of freedom and felt “we the people are not going to put up with that behavior”. It was not pointed out there were snipers on the hill, I witnessed that through binoculars and the evidence will show this.
Back to Richfield, Utah, evidence and witness testimony will show there was not a ruckus there that disrupted or shut down that auction. I called the sheriff – that’s the pattern – the local law enforcement and state brand inspectors in Nevada, Arizona and Utah and I had contact with the highway patrol, county commissioners in several counties and state officials – not all face to face, but some through phone calls. Is this what a criminal does? No. We were there protecting life, liberty, property.
You saw the video of them hip chucking my Aunt Margaret, 50+ years of and just finished with cancer treatments, the mother of 11 children. They call these BLM guys law enforcement, but they are just BLM employees.
All authority comes from we the people, we delegate authority to the county sheriff who we elect and he hires deputies and we then have a sheriff’s department to protect our life, our liberty, our property. Choosing for yourself is freedom and we have no right to impede or harm others. That’s God’s law. Man-made law is to follow that.
Man is supposed to be free, not controlled, serfs or slaves. Government is to be our servant. The government went in and shut down 600,000 acres – not one of us ever went into their enclosed area and never impeded them.
Even my brother driving into the dump truck… isn’t that impediment? The court order did not allow destruction of water infrastructure. What was a dump truck doing out there? Since that was beyond the scope of the supposed court order, we had a right to know. They could have stopped and answered our questions, but no, they set out attack dogs and Tasers and threw Aunt Margaret to the ground.
Every incident they are charging us with happened on property that belonged to the State of Nevada. Even if BLM had authority to close public land, they have no authority to close State of Nevada public land. The fence was on the State of Nevada land. Except by invitation, you will not see one of us breach that fence or impede the gather. We did not violate the court order. Dave went over the fence by the invitation of Dan Love and then the sheriff took over and asked for our help to take down the fence and then the cowboys, led by sheriff’s squad cars went to release the cattle. The sheriff honored his oath and did his job. He should have done it sooner.
I love my family. I love them. I love this land. I love freedom. I am from the State of Nevada. I’m a true Nevadan. I mentioned before that Nevada became a state on Oct. 31st and we always got out of school on that day… I always thought we got out because it was my birthday. I’m a true Nevadan. I believe you are, too, and love freedom as much as I do. Freedom’s not being lost overseas – it’s lost right here at home in our back yards, our front yards.
Until we are willing to do whatever it takes, liberty will be, is being lost. We are not anti-government! Government has its proper place and duties to perform. I want government to do its job. Nothing more. Nothing less. When government does more or less than its job, it becomes the criminal. When government damages our rights, it becomes the criminal. When someone harms or damages another’s life, liberty or property that is the definition of a criminal.
Extortion, violence, pointing guns – everything we are charged with, they were doing and thousands of people came running – the world knew about this – China, Ireland (they sent us a flag), New Zealand and other countries – why? Because America stood for freedom and has for years and the world is interested in seeing how America (emotional) will deal with freedom. The world wants to know. The American people said, “yes, we will stand for freedom. Government, you’ve gone too far and we will put a stop to it.”
The courts have a place. It is said that We the People are the fourth branch of government. I say we are the first. The legislature to make laws, the executive to execute laws and the judicial to judge. All three branches are to protect your rights, our rights, freedom, liberty. Government does not have the authority in and of itself – man creates government to fulfill and protect rights. We the people give government the authority through the Constitution. The tenth amendment insures state’s rights.
Evidence will show my father and my brothers are innocent men. We need you to put on that paper that we are not guilty. You are the twelve to represent us, peers, equals, people…we the People.
Guns…lots of guns…scary…camo…freedom of speech…also, the right to bear arms, the second amendment…a militia was necessary. What is a militia? It is defined in the law. U.S. Code defines militia: “all able-bodied men 17-45 years of age”. How many of you are a member of the militia? State of Nevada extended that and includes men up to the age of 64. How many of you now are a member of the Nevada militia? There is the organized militia, the National Guard and the unorganized militia – everyone else.
Why did the Founding Fathers include the second amendment? Was it for duck hunting? No…no! Militia is mentioned six times in the Constitution. Such a small document and few things are mentioned more than the militia; the central government of this union and yet media or whatever wants to put a bad face on militia. Why did militia come to Bundy Ranch? To peacefully assemble, redress of grievances.
No one was harmed except Davey, Ammon and Margaret. You will not see in evidence that we ever harmed anyone! They attack and we turned the other cheek. We were peaceful—insistent? Yes! And, Yes! Demanding. These men, these people did not come to seek an opportunity to point guns at the government. Hundreds, even thousands of people we didn’t know. That’s exemplary. These people came to do good. To protect me, to save my life.
I had a sniper pointing at me, 200 armed men surrounding my home, my family (tearfully) Ryan Payne has been portrayed as a bad man. Evidence will show otherwise. He saved my life. He saved my life. Others came. I didn’t even meet most of them until I was in jail with them, may have seen them in passing, but I didn’t know them until jail. I honor and thank them now! I thank all who came. We only have rights we are willing to fight for. You’ll see evidence that I was nearly always with the sheriff or a deputy – always in communication with them – I was side-by-side with Lombardo.
Thank you for coming, for being here. I will still do whatever it takes. This is not a threat, it is determination. I love my freedom. Listen to the still small voice to discern between truth and error. The indictment and grand jury testimony is full of lies. Truth has been blocked in previous trials. Listen closely – we will try to get you the truth. The truth will set me free and I’m counting on you to help me see that.
I invite you to our ranch. I recognize your right to use the land. We want you to come and enjoy it. I thank you for this time. Please find me not guilty and these other men not guilty. Stand up for freedom.
Thank you. Ryan Bundy
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