The father of the jailed leader of a group that occupied an Oregon federal wildlife refuge was charged Thursday by federal authorities with leading a tense April 2014 armed standoff with Bureau of Land Management agents near his ranch in Nevada.
A federal magistrate judge ordered Cliven Bundy to remain in custody at least until next Tuesday, and said she’ll consider his request for a court-appointed attorney.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Janice Stewart said she wanted to see financial documents first. Federal authorities have said Bundy owes more than $1.1 million in fees and penalties for letting cows graze illegally on public land for about 20 years near his Bunkerville, Nevada, ranch.
Bundy, 69, was arrested Wednesday night when he arrived at Portland International Airport from Las Vegas to visit his sons, Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy.
His detention means he’ll be housed in the same jail as his sons, the leaders of an armed group that occupied an Oregon wildlife refuge.
But the charges against the patriarch don’t stem from the occupation by the sons of the refuge in Burns, Oregon.
The criminal charges instead arise from a tense 2014 armed standoff with federal officials near the family ranch in Nevada, and they reopen a festering question of how federal officials would fulfill promises to take action following the cancellation of a roundup of Bundy cattle from rangeland about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
A 32-page criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas accuses Bundy of leading more than 200 self-styled militia supporters into the April 2014 confrontation that had snipers with military-style weapons on a freeway overpass training their sights on federal agents who were attempting to enforce a court order to round up Bundy cattle.
“Bundy and his confederates recruited, organized and led hundreds of others in using armed force against law enforcement officers in order to achieve their criminal objectives,” the charging document said.
The complaint refers to at least four other people as co-conspirators, but doesn’t name them. Federal authorities said no other arrests were immediately expected in the April 2014 incident.
But federal prosecutors in Oregon said nine more people from six states have been charged in connection with the Oregon wildlife refuge occupation. Seven were arrested Thursday.
That brought to 25 the number of people facing felony counts of conspiracy to interfere with federal workers as a result of the Oregon standoff.
Bundy’s sons had been leading an armed group that occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and demanded it be handed over to local control for ranching, mining, logging and other uses. They had also asked that two jailed ranchers in the area be freed.
Authorities arrested Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy and other group leaders at a road block on Jan. 26 as they traveled to a community meeting north of the refuge.
A family member in Bunkerville, Nevada, Bundy daughter-in-law Briana Bundy, said Thursday she didn’t think Cliven Bundy was committing a crime in trying to visit his sons.
She questioned why authorities waited almost two years to bring charges.
Officials wouldn’t say why it took almost 22 months to charge Bundy.
The criminal complaint accuses Bundy of conspiracy, assault on a federal officer, obstruction, weapon use an possession, extortion to interfere with commerce and aiding and abetting. If convicted of all six charges, he could face more than 40 years in federal prison and more than $1 million in fines.
Heidi Beirich, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, called charges related to the 2014 standoff “the right thing,” but said Cliven Bundy’s arrest should have come sooner.
“Had he been held accountable two years ago … the armed militants in Oregon may have thought twice before resorting to violent and lawless tactics to push their extremist political agenda,” she said.
Associated Press writers Steven DuBois in Portland, Oregon, and Martha Bellisle and Lisa Baumann in Seattle contributed to this report.
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