Jurors at a federal court in Nevada began deliberations on Tuesday in the retrial of four men accused of numerous charges for acting as gunmen in the 2014 standoff led by renegade rancher Cliven Bundy against federal authorities.
U.S. prosecutors said the four defendants – Scott Drexler, Ricky Lovelien, Eric Parker and Steven Stewart – committed crimes including conspiracy, assault on a federal officer, extortion and weapons law violations when they traveled to Nevada with firearms to participate in a plan to halt the cattle roundup.
Defense attorneys for the four, angered by U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro’s pretrial ruling limiting evidence in the case, offered no closing arguments.
A jury decision was not likely on Tuesday.
The uprising at Bundy’s ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada, 75 miles (120 km) northeast of Las Vegas, grew out of a dispute in which federal agents seized Bundy’s cattle over his refusal to pay fees required for grazing his livestock on government land.
The standoff became a flashpoint in long-simmering tensions over federal ownership of vast tracts of public lands in the West and a rallying point for right-wing militants who challenge the U.S. government’s authority in the region.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadia Ahmed said in closing arguments that the defendants acted in concert with other militia members to threaten and intimidate U.S. Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service officers.
If convicted, the defendants face a minimum of 57 years in prison. In a prior trial, a jury failed to reach verdicts for the four.
In the first trial, defense attorneys argued their clients were exercising constitutionally protected speech and gun rights. They also argued that the defendants feared for their safety and the safety of protesters when they brought weapons.
In an order before the start of the July retrial, Navarro ruled that defense attorneys would not be able to present evidence that their clients acted in self-defense or in the defense of others against law enforcement officers carrying out two court orders.
(Reporting by John L. Smith; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Leslie Adler)