As Cliven Bundy heads back to court, two major questions loom
Bundy was arrested February 10 after travelling to Oregon to support his sons' occupation of a wildlife refuge. The charges stem from his own 2014 standoff.
Antigovernment icon Cliven Bundy, who faces numerous charges from his 2014 standoff with federal land officials in Nevada, will appear in court on Tuesday in Oregon, where the rancher was arrested February 10 after arriving to help his sons with their own occupation of a federal refuge, which dominated headlines for weeks.
Mr. Bundy was arrested in Portland on charges including conspiracy, assault on a federal officer, weapon use and possession, and extortion to interfere with commerce, all related to his 2014 standoff against Bureau of Land Management authorities sent to round-up cattle he had illegally grazed on federal land for years. If convicted of all six charges, he could face the rest of his life in prison.
A federal judge is expected to decide Tuesday whether Bundy should remain in an Oregon jail, or return to Nevada to await trial. Prosecutors have argued that he would not return for court dates unless held in jail. Another looming question is who will represent Bundy. He has requested a public defender, but the judge has yet to decide if she will appoint one.
US Magistrate Judge Janice Stewart said the court would require financial documents before granting the rancher's request for a court-appointed attorney, which he asked at a pretrial hearing last week. "The court only appoints counsel for those who can't afford an attorney," Judge Stewart told reporters.
Bundy, who has said he does not recognize the authority of the United States government, became a states' rights hero in 2014, when hundreds of supporters, many of them armed, gathered at his ranch near Bunkerville, Nev., to oppose federal officials, who sought to round-up cattle he had illegally grazed on government land since the 1990s. He had ignored numerous orders to remove the animals or pay a fine, amassing $1 million in fees and penalties.
The Bureau of Land Management ultimately backed off, alarmed at the prospect of violence. But some analysts have said the decision cemented the Bundys as folk legends, and helped strengthen burgeoning militia movements around the country.
The face-off helped plant the seeds, some say, for Bundy's sons' own headline-making protest, the armed occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, which began on January 2 and ended last week.
"The people have the power when they unite. The war has just begun," Ammon Bundy said in 2014, after his father declared victory in the land rights standoff.
The brothers, who had demanded that the government return refuge lands to local control, were arrested on January 26, and their last four followers surrendered February 11.
The elder Bundy alienated some powerful supporters soon after his 2014 standoff, when he mused that slavery was better for African-American families than freedom, said they "didn't have nothing to do," and called them "Negroes."
Before that, however, his land-rights message had won sympathy from some politicians, and plenty of fellow ranchers, who empathized with his claims that his family had worked the land longer than the government, and that people's right to use it as they wished outweighed conservation concerns. Some of the land that Bundy had used for grazing, whose rights he refused to sell to the government, had come under protection in the late 1990s in an effort to protect threatened desert tortoises.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.