It was the last act of one of the most dramatic points of the Barack Obama presidency.
A federal judge this week set free the Nevada rancher whose standoff with federal agents two years ago became a rallying point for groups around the country infuriated by the creeping overreach of the federal government.
“I’m not used to being free,” Cliven Bundy told reporters as he left the Las Vegas courtroom on Monday, according to the Arizona Republic.
“I have been a political prisoner for more than 700 days.”
Those days are over.
When U.S. District Court dismissed the case against Bundy, she did it “with prejudice,” meaning Bundy and his sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and another co-defendant, Ryan Payne, cannot be retried on the same charges.
The same judge in December declared a mistrial in the federal government’s case, when Bundy was offered a conditional release on the charges.
Bundy declined as a form of protest, the Republic reported. And on Monday, the judge’s scathing words about the prosecution indicated he had plenty to protest against.
“The court finds that the universal sense of justice has been violated,” Navarro said. “The government conduct in this case was, indeed, outrageous.”
How about deliberately withholding evidence from defense attorneys that prosecutors knew would help their case?
In her mistrial ruling in December, Reuters reported, “Navarro said prosecutors knew or should have known of the existence of memos from Federal Bureau of Investigation agents that might have been helpful to the defense.”
While it’s hardly surprising that a prosecution instigated under the Obama Department of Justice was so fatally flawed, the case does raise more questions about how politicized the justice system became under Obama and his attorneys general Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch.
Holder was the attorney general when the Cliven, Ammon and Ryan Bundy first faced off against the federal government in April 2014. Lynch was the attorney general who succeeded him.
Lynch was also the attorney general who prosecuted Ammon and Ryan Bundy for their role in the 2015 takeover of a federal wildlife sanctuary in Oregon. The Bundys and five other co-defendants were acquitted in that case in October 2016, as The New York Times reported.
All of this comes against the backdrop of a federal government that already owns almost half the land in the American West. The Obama administration even tried to close off huge amounts of land in Utah by declaring two new national monuments where millions of acres would be permanently closed to mining or energy development.
Fortunately, the election of Donald Trump put an end to those plans, and hopefully it will mean a rollback of the federal government’s near obscene level of land ownership in a country dedicated to the principles of private property.
Whatever the merits of the legal cases against the Bundys – or the merits of the Bundys’ protests against the government – both AGs Holder and Lynch had ample opportunity to bring federal charges against protesters from the political left during their time in office but chose not to.
Holder famously dropped a voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party in a decision so outrageous it spurred the resignation of a veteran justice department attorney in disgust.
Neither Holder nor Lynch had time to even consider federal charges of racketeering against the leaders of the Black Lives Matter group as they imposed a reign of terror on American cities during riots over alleged police oppression of minorities.
But both had time to bring full prosecutions against anti-government protesters – prosecutions so flawed they resulted in acquittals in one case and a scathing rebuke from the bench in another.
The decision Judge Navarro reached was massive – and her criticism of the Justice Department were even more important.
It was time to draw the curtains on the whole sorry drama that was the Obama administration’s distortion of justice.
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