NATION

Cliven Bundy is denied bail over standoff at his Nevada ranch

A Nevada rancher who was at the center of a dramatic standoff with federal authorities in 2014 is a flight risk and should be held without bail, an Oregon judge ruled Monday.

Judge Janice Stewart's ruling echoed the warnings of federal prosecutors who said Cliven Bundy might skip bail, hole up with armed supporters and hope for a violent end in his conflict with the federal government.

Bundy, whose sons were among those recently arrested in connection with an armed occupation of an Oregon wildlife reserve, is being held on six charges stemming from a monthlong standoff with federal agents at his Nevada ranch in 2014.

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On social media, his supporters said Bundy was flying to Oregon on the night of Feb. 10 to visit his jailed sons, Ammon and Ryan.

He never made it. Bundy, minus his usual pair of bodyguards, was arrested by federal agents at Portland International Airport.

Bundy's arrest came 21 months after the end of the standoff at his ranch. In the most serious charge, prosecutors said he assaulted federal officers by pointing a weapon at them.

His appointed federal public defender did not return calls and emails from The Times seeking comment.

The standoff with federal agents began when Bundy refused to pay $1 million in federal grazing fees. Relying on a generally discredited legal theory, one that supposes the federal government has no constitutional right to own land, Bundy refused to pay taxes or abide by grazing laws.

By April 5, 2014, the federal government was prepared to move in and seize Bundy's cattle. Instead, they found Bundy and an armed group of supporters blocking the way. The standoff stretched on for a month, and sometimes came close to bloodshed.

"But for the courageous restraint of these officers, this violent assault would likely have met with violent and deadly ends," Assistant U.S. Atty. Charles Gorder wrote in a Justice Department memo opposing Bundy's release on bail.

In categorizing Bundy as "lawless and violent," the Justice Department said he refused directives from the Bureau of Land Management to stop grazing his cattle on federal land.

"Bundy has declared a personal war against the BLM and the federal government," Gorder wrote. "There has been no evidence adduced during this massive investigation to suggest that he has changed his mind about any of that."

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Since the standoff, prosecutors say federal agents interviewed hundreds of witnesses and went through thousands of pages of telephone records, as well as the volumes of text, audio and video generated by Bundy and his prolific supporters on social media.

Bundy is a risk to the community if released, prosecutors said. In calling on about 400 people to face off with federal agents, Bundy risked their lives and the lives of the agents who responded, prosecutors said.

"That Bundy now faces a lengthy incarceration if convicted of the charges can only bode more dangerous conduct if he is released," Gorder wrote.

nigel.duara@latimes.com

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