A federal judge has thrown out charges in the case against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. He was at the center of a 2014 armed standoff with federal law enforcement over grazing on federal land. The outcome has some wondering if the fallout will include similar confrontations in the future.
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro dismissed charges against Bundy "with prejudice," meaning the case cannot be tried again. Janalee Tobias is a gun rights activist and Bundy family friend. She spent time with the group in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. She says the group always believed they were following the law.
“They protested in a way that Americans should protest,” Tobias says.
She alleges there are countless others who are losing their ranches to the government.
“If you believe that the federal government is violating the Constitution then make a stand. And do it in a non-violent manner,” Tobias says.
But others say the fact that individuals think an armed standoff is an appropriate way to remedy a problem should be deeply concerning.
John Ruple is an associate professor of law at the University of Utah. He points out the court did not decide the group’s conduct was legal.
“Several of the defendants did plead guilty and several of the defendants did go to jail. So there is some deterrent value there,” Ruple says. “But the ring leaders of these events appear to have gotten off without any significant punishment and the fact that they will not be going to jail I think could embolden others to act in similar was in the future.
Judge Navarro dismissed the case a month after declaring a mistrial. She said the prosecution hadn’t shared relevant evidence.