PORTLAND, Ore. — Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy must stay behind bars, a federal judge ruled Tuesday, calling him a danger to the community after he arrived in Oregon to support the armed occupation of a national wildlife preserve led by his sons.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Janice Stewart also said Bundy should not be released ahead of trial because there is a risk he won’t show up for future court dates. Federal prosecutors called the 69-year-old “lawless and violent” in a document filed before the hearing, an assertion his attorney and family denied.
“If he is released and he goes back to his ranch, that is likely the last the government will see of him,” Stewart said.
Bundy, 69, was arrested in Portland last week on charges stemming from a 2014 armed standoff with federal officials who were rounding up his cattle over unpaid grazing fees.
He came to Oregon to support a weekslong occupation at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which his sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, launched Jan. 2 to demand the federal government turn over public lands to local control.
His sons were arrested Jan. 26 and remain in jail, but four holdouts extended the occupation until last Thursday, when they surrendered.
The elder Bundy was not charged in connection with the Oregon occupation. All his charges stem from the 2014 Nevada standoff: conspiracy, assault on a federal officer, obstruction, weapon use and possession, extortion to interfere with commerce, and aiding and abetting.
Bundy’s attorney, Noel Grefenson, said his client could not be a danger if authorities waited to charge him for 22 months. The judge dismissed that argument and set his next hearing for Friday.
Bundy said nothing in court. He sat for much of the short hearing with his arms folded across his chest, occasionally swiveling in his chair to gaze sternly at spectators in a courtroom filled to capacity.
A family member said the patriarch isn’t dangerous or a criminal and should be released to his home.
“Cliven believes in the proper role of government and proper jurisdiction. Where’s the jurisdiction?” daughter-in-law Briana Bundy told The Associated Press by telephone from Bunkerville, Nevada.
“He’s not a flight risk. This is his home. This is where his livelihood is,” she said.
Cliven Bundy is accused of unlawfully directing more than 200 followers to stop federal agents and contract cowboys who were trying to enforce a court order to round up about 400 of his cattle two years ago.
“Witnesses have described the level of threatened violence as so intense that something as innocent as the backfire of (a) vehicle, or someone lighting a firecracker, would have set off a firefight,” according to a 34-page document filed by prosecutors Tuesday.
They allege that Bundy and his followers set up traffic checkpoints on public roads and followed and intimidated federal officials trying to conduct plant surveys.
Neither the Constitution nor any other law “gives anyone the right to use or carry, let alone brandish, raise or point, a firearm” at federal law enforcers performing official duties, “whether one thinks the officer is acting constitutionally or not,” prosecutors wrote.
To diffuse the standoff, the government released the cows.
Federal authorities have said Bundy owes more than $1 million in fees and penalties for letting cows graze illegally for decades on public land near his ranch.
If convicted of all six charges, he could spend the rest of his life in federal prison.