Sessions praises ‘Battle of Bunkerville’ prosecutor as retrial kicks off

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks before law enforcement officials in Las Vegas on Wednesday, July 12. (Photo: Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday lauded the lead prosecutor in the ongoing Bunkerville standoff trial, but stopped short of taking sides.

Sessions was in Las Vegas talking about sanctuary cities when he made the comments, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“I’ve got to tell you, it’s impressive when you have a tough case, a controversial case, and you’ve got the top guy leading the battle, going to court, standing up and defending the office and the principles of the law,” Sessions said of Nevada’s Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre.

“I’m not taking sides or commenting on the case,” he said. “Just want to say that leadership requires, a lot of times, our people to step up and be accountable.”

The “Battle of Bunkerville” was a six day standoff between dozens of armed ranchers, together with their supporters, and U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials in April 2014. Rancher Cliven Bundy spent decades refusing to pay grazing fees to the federal government. When federal agents came to collect cattle in lieu of those payments, people came from all over the country to support Bundy. In April, two men were found guilty of multiple charges linked to the standoff, while the jury deadlocked on charges for four other men.

Several Bundy supporters rallied outside the U.S. attorney’s office Wednesday as Sessions spoke. His comments come as a retrial starts in Nevada for those four men — O. Scott Drexler, Eric Parker and Steven Stewart, all of Idaho, and Oklahoma native Richard Lovelien. They face charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and assaulting federal agents, and could face up to 100 years behind bars.

The retrial started Monday and is expected to last seven to nine weeks. It’s the first of three trials related to the 2014 standoff. When that trial ends, Cliven Bundy will face a trial with his sons, Ryan and Ammon. Six other people will face a jury in a third trial.

This weekend, Roger Stone, the longtime adviser to President Donald Trump, is expected to speak at a rally in Las Vegas aimed at raising legal funds for the Bundy’s and their supporters.

“The Bundy Ranch case hasn’t gotten the proper coverage it deserves and what’s more outrageous is the Govt’s conduct towards 17 men arrested at a Rally in support of the Bundy family,” Stone told the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Of those 17, so far only one has been convicted and sentenced. Jerry DeLemus was sentenced to 87 months in prison, and three years of supervised release in late May. He initially pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, but later tried to withdraw his guilty plea.