Mistrial Declared in Bundy Armed Standoff Case

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A federal judge declared a mistrial on Wednesday in the case of Nevada cattle ranchers and one of their supporters, whose dispute with the government over grazing rights turned into an armed standoff in 2014. The judge stated that prosecutors had improperly withheld evidence from the defense.

The ruling in Federal District Court in Las Vegas by Judge Gloria M. Navarro was the latest failure by federal prosecutors to convict participants in the standoff led by Cliven D. Bundy and his sons Ammon E. Bundy and Ryan C. Bundy. Two earlier trials against other defendants ended in hung juries.

The judge ruled that prosecutors violated the rights of the defendants — the three Bundys and a supporter, Ryan W. Payne — by failing to turn over an array of material ahead of the trial. That included video taken from within the Bundy ranch during the standoff by a federal informant, evidence that F.B.I. agents were involved in the standoff, and a threat assessment of the Bundys drafted by the government. She ruled verbally, and not in writing.

“There were approximately 3,000 pages that were provided to us only after we started trial,” said Bret D. Whipple, a lawyer for Cliven Bundy. “I personally have never seen anything like this, especially in a case of such importance.”

Judge Navarro scheduled a Jan. 8 hearing on whether the case should be dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning that prosecutors would be barred from trying it again. She set a tentative Feb. 26 date for a new trial.

“We’ve told everyone all along, ‘the truth will set us free,’” said Angie Bundy, the wife of Ryan Bundy, who was in the courtroom for the ruling. “It was the lies we’re worried about.”

Among the withheld reports the judge mentioned, she said, was one in which government officials said the Bundys were not violent. “She cited all of that,” Ms. Bundy said. “At this point, I don’t know what kind of a case they have against us.”

From left, the Nevada rancher Cliven D. Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan, and Ryan W. Payne.CreditMultnomah County Sheriff’s Office, via Associated Press

The mistrial and allegations of government misconduct will likely energize ranchers and others in the West who have long argued against what they perceive as federal overreach. Ian Bartrum, a law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who is closely following the trial, said recent events had drastically shifted the way legal observers saw the case.

“The narrative has changed,” he said. “It went from ‘bad Bundys, clear lawbreakers’ to ‘shady government and maybe they are persecuting these guys.’”

“There’s already a lot of people that distrust the government,” he added. “Maybe more mainstream people will start to mistrust what the government is doing.”

Last month, the judge ruled that the defendants, who had been in jail for more than a year and a half, could be released if they met certain conditions. Cliven Bundy refused and remained in jail, but Mr. Whipple said he was seeking an emergency order for Mr. Bundy’s release.

For two decades, Mr. Bundy grazed his cattle on federal land but refused to pay grazing fees, insisting that he did not have to because he had inherited water rights on the land. In 2014, the Bureau of Land Management seized his cows in an attempt to force him to pay, but hundreds of antigovernment activists, many of them carrying guns, rallied to the cause and went to the family ranch until the confrontation ended with the withdrawal of federal agents.

The standoff made the Bundys national figures — cheered in some quarters and vilified in others.

The Bundys had long alleged misconduct by federal agents and prosecutors, and powerful evidence for their claims emerged last week in The Oregonian newspaper, which made public a complaint that a Bureau of Land Management agent had filed with the Justice Department. The agent alleged unprofessionalism, bias, heavy-handed tactics, and withholding of evidence by his colleagues during and after the standoff, and he said that after he informed prosecutors, he was removed from the case.

For the Bundys, who have long argued that the trial was stacked against them, the judge’s announcement was a vindication of their beliefs.

Andrea Parker, the wife of Eric Parker, an ally of the Bundys who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor related to the standoff, said, “It’s great that they’re showing the malicious prosecution that’s been going on — by the prosecution, the F.B.I. and the B.L.M. It’s finally getting out there, it’s something we weren’t afforded or allowed at our trial.”

Ammon and Ryan Bundy also led an armed, 40-day occupation of a federal wildlife sanctuary in Oregon in 2016. They and five supporters were later acquitted of federal conspiracy and weapons charges stemming from that action.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A20 of the New York edition with the headline: Judge Rules Mistrial For Leaders Of a Standoff. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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