LAS VEGAS — A Federal District judge in Las Vegas dismissed criminal charges against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his sons.
They were accused of leading an armed uprising against the federal government in 2014.
Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro hinted after the mistrial last month that she might dismiss the case against Bundy and his sons Ammon and Ryan and militia leader Ryan Payne.
Navarro criticized the prosecutors for what she called ”willful" violations of due process rights of defendants, including failing to properly turn over evidence to Bundy’s lawyer.
Monday's decision is sure to strike a cord with states' rights advocates across the West, where the federal government and BLM controls much of Western lands used for grazing, mining and oil and gas production.
The Bundy’s well-documented armed standoff outside Bunkerville, north of Las Vegas, stopped the BLM’s high profile roundup of Bundy’s cattle from public land.
The cattle had been rounded up under court order because Bundy deliberately let his herd graze for 20 years without paying his BLM grazing fees.
Heavily armed federal agents guarded corrals in a dry riverbed before facing hundreds of flag-waving ranchers with women and children demanding the release of Bundy’s 400 head of cattle.
No shots were fired and the outnumbered federal agents left the scene.
Several protesters had AR-15 assault rifles but were acquitted of criminal charges in two trials last summer.
Ammon and Ryan Bundy were acquitted of federal criminal charges in Portland after the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2016. They demanded at the time that the government turn over public land back to local control.
Payne is waiting for his sentencing in that case but wants to withdraw his guilty plea to a felony conspiracy charge that is expected to bring a sentence of more than three years in prison.
In Las Vegas, Navarro declared the mistrial Dec. 20, and that leaves Cliven Bundy as the only defendant still in jail after refusing the judge's offer of release to house arrest.