Tape shows Bundys acted to protect rights of all ranchers
BY DENNIS RICHTER AND WILLIAM ARTH
LAS VEGAS — The government frame-up trial of cattle rancher Cliven Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and supporter Ryan Payne entered day 12 in U.S. District Court here Nov. 27. Prosecutors put Bureau of Land Management agent Robert Shilaikis on the stand. The jury heard the secret government recording made by Shilaikis of a phone call between BLM agent Michael Johnson and Ryan Bundy on March 27, 2014. Johnson and Shilaikis were assigned to go to the Bundy ranch in Bunkerville to inform them the government planned to move in and seize their cattle.
Government prosecutors played 13 minutes of conversation, arguing that this was the only part relevant to the charges. Under pressure, prosecutors agreed later to play the full 46 minutes.
In response to threats by agent Johnson to enforce court orders to confiscate the Bundy family cattle, Ryan Bundy said, “We will do whatever it takes to stop your gathering of our cattle.” When Johnson pushes Bundy on what it would take to avoid a confrontation, he replied, “Don’t come to take the cattle. We have the right to defend ourselves if you are taking our property. We don’t claim ownership to the land, we claim ownership to water rights, grazing rights and the ranching improvements.”
Despite Johnson’s best efforts to get Bundy to say ranchers would respond with violence, he never does so.
Defense attorney Ryan Norwood reintroduced one segment from the BLM tape the next day, where Ryan Bundy says the Bundys met with hundreds of ranchers from throughout the region. “These ranchers believe that if we go down that they will be next. These ranchers will stand with us,” Bundy says. “People in Japan, China, all over the world are interested in the issue of how the Bundys’ rights will be handled.”