Opening statements conclude in Bundy family trial in Las Vegas - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Opening statements conclude in Bundy family trial in Las Vegas

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Ryan Bundy exits the court house on the second day of the Bundy family trial Nov. 15, 2017 (FOX5). Ryan Bundy exits the court house on the second day of the Bundy family trial Nov. 15, 2017 (FOX5).
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

The second day of opening statements concluded on Wednesday in the federal trial of Nevada cattleman Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and a co-defendant in a 2014 armed standoff against government agents.

Prosecutors alleged the 71-year-old Bundy, sons Ryan and Ammon Bundy and Ryan Payne led a group of militia to stop federal agents at gunpoint from enforcing court orders to remove Bundy's cattle from public land. No shots were fired in the standoff near Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Bundy has refused to pay grazing fees to a federal government that he maintains has no authority over land in the states.

Defendant Ryan Bundy was the first "attorney" to present his case to the jury. He described stories of his childhood, growing on his family's ranch as a "river rat" who appreciated the great outdoors. He asked the jury to picture themselves in the great outdoors so they can "feel the freedom" that is supposed to be open for everyone to enjoy.

"In the river, in the ditch, in the fields, and in the hills. That's where my life began, and I hope that's where it ends," he said. "My family is not a violent family. I'm not a violent man."

Ryan Bundy, representing himself at trial, started his opening statement by showing the jury a photo of his wife and eight children.

Ryan Bundy said the reason he and his family decided to protest is that they felt that the failure to use, claim, or defend their rights would cause them to lose their rights. He compared his family to the patriots who wrote the Declaration of Independence, willing to sacrifice "our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor."

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have agreed that everyone is entitled to their First Amendment right to protest, but the charges levied against the Bundy family have to do with the way they protested -- not necessarily the subject of the protest itself. The U.S. Attorney's Office must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that protesters assaulted federal officers, threatened federal officers, intimidated federal officers, and obstructed justice.

"This case has nothing to do with the grazing fee," Ryan Bundy said. "Everything we are charged with is what they were doing to us."

Ryan Bundy said he has received interview requests and letters of support from China, Norway, New Zealand, and Ireland. He said the rest of the world is interested in this case because the United States is supposed to be the gold standard for freedom.

Ryan Payne's defense attorney, Ryan Norwood, praised Ryan Bundy's opening statement but told the jury this case is about protecting innocent people, not the strong beliefs that brought everyone to Bunkerville in the first place.

He said his client drove from Montana to Nevada because of videos he saw online. He said Ryan Payne wanted to stop a fight, not to start one. He also said the evidence will show neither Payne nor Cliven Bundy was at the site where the alleged crimes took place.

"When you throw a block party, you can never be sure who's going to show up," Norwood said. "Ryan Payne had never met most of these people... He had never heard of Cliven Bundy."

Ryan Payne's defense attorney, Ryan Norwood, told the jury they do NOT have to agree with the Bundys' legal or Constitutional views when it comes to federal vs. state land. It should not be used as a basis for conviction or innocence.

Ryan Norwood showed pictures of Ryan Payne and two of children said his client is an Army veteran who was deployed twice in Iraq and served honorably.

Mary Jo Rugwell, a state director with the Bureau of Land Management, was the first witness to take the stand. She was the district manager of southern Nevada's BLM office from April 2008 until August 2012 and described multiple instances in which she argued with the Bundy family. So far, Rugwell has been talking about BLM's rights to manage federal land. BLM is part of the Department of Interior. They are governed by laws passed by Congress and signed by the president.

Rugwell says Cliven Bundy was upset because he thought he had to scale back his grazing due to the Endangered Species Act protecting the desert tortoise. He stopped filing for grazing permits, but he let the cows continue to graze, arguing that the BLM lacked jurisdiction.

One of the pieces of evidence, an old court order, states Cliven Bundy accused the BLM of harassment and threw their paperwork out the window of his car before driving away. Then one of his sons reportedly tore it into pieces and threw it on the ground

Rugwell said the bureau was ready to issue Cliven Bundy a new 10-year grazing permit in 1993, but he never applied. He had been "continuously trespassing" ever since.

Rugwell will continue her testimony Thursday afternoon.?

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