Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday ordered an investigation into the high-profile prosecution of anti-government ranchers in Nevada, after a judge declared a mistrial, saying that prosecutors had improperly withheld evidence from the defense.
The case against Cliven D. Bundy, his sons Ammon E. Bundy and Ryan C. Bundy, and a supporter, Ryan W. Payne, stemmed from an armed standoff in 2014 between federal agents on one side, and the Bundys and people who flocked to their cause on the other.
On Wednesday, in Federal District Court in Las Vegas, Judge Gloria M. Navarro charged that prosecutors had failed to disclose material they were required to turn over to the defense, including video taken surreptitiously within the Bundy ranch during the standoff, and evidence that F.B.I. agents were involved in the incident. It is unclear whether the case will go to a second trial.
“The Attorney General takes this issue very seriously and has personally directed that an expert in the Department’s discovery obligations be deployed to examine the case and advise as to next steps,” said Ian Prior, a spokesman for the Department of Justice.
In a statement released by the department, the acting United States attorney in Nevada, Steven W. Myhre, whose office conducted the prosecution, said: “We respect the ruling of the Court and take very seriously our discovery obligations. The Office welcomes the assistance of the Attorney General as we continue to evaluate the case in light of the Court’s ruling.”
Bret D. Whipple, a lawyer for Cliven Bundy, noted the defendants had spent more than a year and a half in jail. He said he welcomed the news, though he wished the department’s inquiry “had been done two years ago.”
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