A federal judge in Nevada postponed the trial of rancher Cliven Bundy for his role in an armed standoff with U.S. government agents, after defense lawyers argued that the Las Vegas mass shooting could influence jurors, his attorney said on Friday.
The case against Bundy stems from a 2014 revolt he is alleged to have led against federal authorities at his ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, about 75 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro in Las Vegas granted the delay for Bundy and several co-defendants, including his sons, who are accused of conspiracy, assault and other charges, Bret Whipple told Reuters.
Prosecutors allege Bundy, 71, and his followers blocked agents with the National Park Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in 2014 from carrying out a court order.
“Our entire community has been affected by this horrific tragedy,” Whipple said. “Nobody wanted to go to trial this soon – even the U.S. Attorney wasn’t opposed to a brief delay.”
A spokeswoman for Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.
The trial was set to begin next week in Las Vegas federal court, and Navarro granted a delay until Oct. 30.
The issue of a postponement was raised this week by a federal public defender representing one of Bundy’s co-defendants, who wrote that potential jurors could be influenced by Sunday’s shooting rampage.
Fifty-eight people were killed and nearly 500 others injured on Sunday night when a gunman strafed an outdoor country music festival with rifle fire from his high-rise hotel suite in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The judge’s reasoning for her decision was unclear from a docket entry, but she denied a defense motion to delay the trial for at least 90 days, or move the proceedings to Reno, some 440 miles away.
Separately, another of the accused conspirators, Peter Santilli, pleaded guilty on Friday to conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer, federal prosecutors said. He faces up to six years in prison when he is sentenced in January.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; editing by Alexander Smith)