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Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy goes on trial for leading 2014 armed standoff

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Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy goes on trial on Monday for his role in leading a 2014 armed standoff against federal agents that became a rallying point for militia groups challenging U.S. government authority in the American West.

Bundy, two of his sons and a third follower are accused of conspiracy, assault, firearms offenses and other charges in the latest of several trials stemming from the confrontation near Bunkerville, Nevada, 75 miles (120 km) northeast of Las Vegas.

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The revolt was sparked by the court-ordered roundup of Bundy’s cattle by government agents over his refusal to pay fees required to graze the herd on federal land.

Hundreds of supporters, many heavily armed, rallied to Bundy’s cause demanding that his livestock be returned. Outnumbered law enforcement officers ultimately retreated rather than risk bloodshed. No shots were ever fired.

The face-off marked a flashpoint in long-simmering tensions over federal control of public lands in the West and a precursor to Bundy’s two sons leading an armed six-week occupation of a federal wildlife center in Oregon two years later, in 2016.

Defense lawyers have generally argued that the Bunkerville defendants were exercising constitutionally protected rights to assembly and to bear arms, casting the showdown as a patriotic act of civil disobedience against government overreach.

Prosecutors have said that armed gunmen were using force and intimidation to defy the rule of law.

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Jury selection in the latest trial was slated to begin on Monday morning in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas. The proceedings were postponed for three weeks after an unrelated mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 in which 58 people were killed.

Standing trial with Cliven Bundy, 71, are the two sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who led last year’s Oregon occupation, and a third co-defendant, Ryan Payne, a Montana resident linked by prosecutors to a militia group called Operation Mutual Aid.

A fourth co-defendant, internet blogger and radio host Peter Santilli, pleaded guilty on Oct. 6 to conspiracy and faces a possible six-year prison term.

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Six lesser-known participants in the Nevada ranch showdown went on trial as a group earlier this year. Two men were found guilty, one of them sentenced to 68 years in prison. The other is awaiting sentencing.

Two of the four remaining defendants were retried and acquitted, and two others pleaded guilty last week to obstructing a court order. Those two each face up to a year in prison when sentenced.

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Yet another group of six defendants, including two more Bundy sons, Dave and Mel Bundy, are due to stand trial 30 days after the current trial ends.

Ammon and Ryan Bundy, along with five other people, were previously charged with criminal conspiracy in the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. That trial ended with the surprise acquittal last year of all seven.

(Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Donald Trump’s lurch toward fascism is backfiring spectacularly

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

During the 2016 campaign, as Donald Trump railed against "Mexican rapists" and other "criminal aliens," pollsters found that the share of Americans who said that immigrants worked hard and made a positive contribution to our society increased significantly, and noticed a similar decline in the share who said they take citizens' jobs and burden our social safety net. After Trump was elected and began pursuing his Muslim ban, the share of respondents who held a positive view of Islam also increased pretty dramatically. I'm not aware of any polling of the general public about transgender troops serving in the military before Trump decided to discharge them, but Gallup found that 71 percent of respondents opposed his position after he did.

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Judge blocking release of Jeffrey Epstein records has ties to officials linked to Epstein: report

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On Saturday, the Miami Herald reported that a judge who blocked the release of grand jury material in the Jeffrey Epstein child sex abuse case has ties to three officials with a vested interest in the outcome of the lawsuits surrounding the scandal.

"Krista Marx, the Palm Beach chief judge who also heads a panel that polices judicial conduct, has potential conflicts of interest involving three prominent players embroiled in the Epstein sex-trafficking saga: State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who has been sued by the Palm Beach Post to release the grand jury records; Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, whose department’s favored treatment of Epstein while he was in the Palm Beach County jail is part of an ongoing state criminal investigation; and ex-State Attorney Barry Krischer, part of the same investigation in connection with his decision not to prosecute Epstein on child-sex charges," wrote Julie Brown, a reporter who has extensively covered the Epstein case.

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WATCH: Buffalo cops and firefighters cheer officers charged with assault as they leave the courthouse

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According to a report from both CNN and MSNBC, the two Buffalo police officers who were charged with second-degree assault after shoving a 75-year-old anti-police brutality protester to the ground where he sustained head injuries were greeted with applause after they were arraigned on Saturday morning.

MSNBC's Alex Witt noted that both officers were released without having to post bail.

According to ABC News, "Officers Aaron Torglaski and Robert McCabe were charged with second-degree assault during their video arraignments on Saturday and were released on their own recognizance. They both entered no guilty pleas and are expected back in court on July 20."

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