Defense attorneys representing men charged as co-conspirators of rancher Cliven Bundy have raised concerns that a Bureau of Land Management supervisor recently acccused of ethics violations is the same person who oversaw agency officials during the armed standoff in Bunkerville in April 2014. In a scathing report released this week, the Office of the Inspector General accuses an unnamed BLM supervisory agent of using his position to obtain sold-out Burning Man tickets in 2015. The report includes allegations that the agent intimidated employees who may have reported his wrongdoing, and it accuses him of threatening to ruin subordinates’ careers by saying things like, “If you’re not on my ship, you’re going to sink … so I suggest you get on my ship.”
The defense attorneys filed motions in federal court Wednesday seeking personnel files of all the BLM agents involved in the case. But the language in the filings reveals that lawyers are focused specifically on the identification of the unnamed supervisory agent targeted in the OIG report, whom they apparently suspect to be the same agent in charge of the cattle impoundment operation at Bundy’s ranch.
“Curiously, the report never actually names the Special Agent in Command who is the subject of the report,” defense attorney Todd Leventhal, representing defendant Scott Drexler, wrote in his filing. “This narcissistic and cavalier attitude towards the legal process calls into question at what lengths this Special Agent in Command may go to and whether or not future witnesses in the case at bar may be tainted with their testimony at trial for fear of ‘ruining their career’ as well.”
Drexler’s trial is scheduled to open next week, and Leventhal filed the motion as he is preparing to cross-examine federal agents who are included on the government’s witness list for the upcoming trial. He included a list of those agents in his court filing, and only one on the list is identified as a supervisor: BLM Supervisory Special Agent Daniel Love.
Defense attorney Chris Rasmussen, who represents defendant Pete Santilli, filed an identical request but did not identify by name any of the BLM agents. He did, however, use his filing to attack the behavior of federal officials — especially the special agent in charge.
“BLM had told officials in Washington D.C. that they were ceasing the cattle operation. However, when the cowboys came to recover the cattle, the BLM was still positioned in a confrontational manner in which they pointed firearms at protestors,” Rasmussen wrote in the filing. “The BLM agent in charge testified to the grand jury about facts that are disputed by our local law enforcement officials.”
The defense strategy involves portraying federal officials as excessively militant or aggressive against a peaceful group of protesters. If the lawyers’ suspicions are confirmed, some of the allegations detailed in the Inspector General’s report could bolster defense arguments at trial, provided the judge allows the jury to hear testimony on that topic.
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