2 found guilty, 4 mistrials in ongoing Bundy standoff prosecution

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Eric Parker kneels on a bridge with his weapon during the April 2014 standoff. (Photo: Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

Jurors on Monday handed down a mixed bag of results for six men charged in connection with an armed standoff near Cliven Bundy’s Nevada cattle ranch three years ago.

Two men were found guilty on multiple counts each, while the jury deadlocked on charges for the four other men, leading Judge Gloria M. Navarro to declare a mistrial, according to court documents.

Phoenix native Gregory Burleson was found guilty of eight counts against him, including threats against federal agents and assault. At trial, testimony revealed that Burleson told undercover agents during the standoff that he was ready to kill federal agents, and he was upset things ended without bloodshed. He could face up to 57 years of mandatory prison time. He’ll be sentenced on July 26, but his attorney said he’ll appeal.

The other defendant found guilty, Todd Engel, an Idaho native, was convicted of obstruction and traveling across state lines in aid of extortion. He’ll be sentenced the day after Burleson and could face 30 years in prison.

The four other men are O. Scott Drexler, Eric Parker and Steven Stewart, all of Idaho, and Oklahoma native Richard Lovelien. “They split our way, anywhere from 10-2 to 7-5, not guilty,” said Parker’s attorney, Jess Marchese, according to the Associated Press.

The “Battle of Bunkerville” was a six day standoff between dozens of armed ranchers and U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials in April 2014. People came from all over to support Bundy, who spent decades refusing to pay grazing fees to the federal government.

When BLM officials came to round up Bundy’s cattle in lieu of the $1 million in backed fees, Bundy, his sons, and several others launched what prosecutors called “a massive armed assault against federal law enforcement officers.” No shots were fired and the standoff ended when BLM agents retreated. Defendants maintain their protests were peaceful, and that federal agents were the ones ratcheting up tensions.

“The only thing more powerful than the U.S. government is a fair and impartial jury,” said Cliven Bundy’s attorney, Bret Whipple, on Monday. “This gives us confidence that the primary witnesses against him are of limited value.”

This was the first of three trials scheduled this year, in which a total of 17 people will face a jury of their peers. Parker, Drexler, Stewart and Lovelien will face a new trial on June 26, the same day Cliven Bundy, his sons, and two others will start their trial. A third trial is scheduled for later this year.