Two men charged along with rancher Cliven Bundy in an armed standoff with federal agents in Nevada in 2014 have pleaded guilty, the first time any of the 19 defendants has agreed to forgo trial and admit wrongdoing.
Jerry DeLemus, 61, and Blaine Cooper, 36, pleaded guilty during separate hearings on Thursday in federal court in Las Vegas, according to court records and a statement from prosecutors.
The standoff, which began when federal agents seized cattle at Bundy’s ranch over unpaid grazing fees, came to symbolize opposition to federal management of public lands in the American West.
DeLemus, a prominent conservative activist from Rochester, N.H., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and one count of interstate travel in aid of extortion.
In April 2014, he traveled to Nevada with firearms and other gunmen, providing security for Bundy and organizing patrols, prosecutors said.
Cooper, of Humboldt, Ariz., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and one count of assault on a federal officer.
He helped Bundy to thwart federal agents, including when at least one unidentified member of Bundy’s group brandished a firearm, prosecutors said.
DeLemus and Cooper are scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 1. Under plea agreements filed in court, prosecutors plan to ask that they be given prison terms of six years.
A trial for the remaining 17 defendants, including Bundy, is scheduled to begin in February. They have pleaded not guilty.
Cooper will not testify against the others at trial, his lawyer Matthew Lay said. Lay declined further comment.
A lawyer for DeLemus could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.
In March, DeLemus was named an alternate delegate for businessman Donald Trump at the Republican national convention. He was co-chair of a New Hampshire Veterans for Trump coalition.
(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by James Dalgleish)