LAS VEGAS – Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy wants to ask a federal judge Thursday to release him from jail pending trial on charges stemming from an armed standoff against federal agents two years ago.
But prosecutors say Bundy already had a detention hearing in Oregon and is not entitled to another one in Las Vegas. His arrest there came while he was heading to visit sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who are behind bars and accused of leading a 41-day armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Carl Hoffman scheduled arguments before Cliven Bundy’s scheduled morning detention hearing to consider whether another hearing should be held at all.
Bundy’s lawyer, Joel Hansen, characterized Bundy, 69, as a political prisoner being held illegally for challenging federal authority. Hansen is fighting prosecutors’ contention that Bundy should remain in custody as a flight risk and danger to the community.
Bundy and four of his adult sons are among 19 people in several states indicted this month on allegations that they incited and organized a gunpoint standoff that stopped federal agents from rounding up cattle near Bundy’s ranch in April 2014. Convictions could put them in prison for the rest of their lives.
Hansen said Bundy believes he could not have done anything wrong because the state owns the land and federal law doesn’t apply. Bundy insists he’s entitled to let his cows roam freely over arid rangeland around his 160-acre cattle ranch in Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
The dispute has roots in the Sagebrush Rebellion, which began more than 40 years ago over grazing rights in Nevada.
Bundy family members Lillie Spencer and Margaret Houston said Wednesday that they expected protesters to turn out to show support for the family patriarch.
About 100 Bundy backers demonstrated last week while Bundy appeared in court and refused to enter a plea to charges including conspiracy, assault, obstruction, weapon possession and threatening federal officers.
The judge entered a not-guilty plea on Bundy’s behalf.
Several people who face charges with Bundy in the Nevada standoff also have been charged in the Oregon standoff at the nature preserve, which was launched to oppose federal land restrictions. Twenty-six people have been charged in that case.
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