Not guilty pleas entered for last defendants of 2014 Nevada ranch standoff

LAS VEGAS A Las Vegas judge on Friday entered not guilty pleas for the last five defendants to be arraigned over a high-profile standoff about cattle grazing rights between armed protesters and federal agents at the Nevada ranch of Cliven Bundy in 2014.

U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley Jr. entered the pleas for the defendants, including Bundy brothers Ammon and Ryan who were arrested earlier this year after leading a separate armed standoff in Oregon, after they refused to enter pleas themselves.

Not guilty pleas on charges including obstruction, conspiracy and assault were also entered for defendants Blaine Cooper, Brian Cavalier and Ryan Payne at Friday’s arraignment. Cliven Bundy and 13 others previously pleaded not guilty in the case.

Attorneys for the men declined to comment after the hours-long hearing, where the full 63-page indictment was read aloud.

Prosecutors have said Cliven Bundy trespassed on federal lands for over 20 years, refusing to secure the necessary permits or pay the required fees the government charges ranchers to let their cattle graze on U.S.-owned public property.

In an enforcement action just over two years ago, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management sent armed rangers to Bundy’s ranch about 80 miles (129 km) northeast of Las Vegas to confiscate his cattle.

Anti-government groups and other supporters rallied to Bundy’s defense. In an armed standoff on April 12, 2014, along Interstate 15, they confronted federal agents, who ultimately backed down and returned the cattle they had seized.

Cliven Bundy was arrested this February at the Portland International Airport after arriving there on his way to show support for anti-government militants who had taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon.

His sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy led that 41-day standoff, which was sparked by the return to prison of two Oregon ranchers convicted of setting fires that spread to federal property in the vicinity of the refuge.

One of the leaders of the Oregon occupation, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, was killed by Oregon State Police on Jan. 26 after he ran from his pickup truck at a roadblock along a snow-covered roadside during the occupation.

A total of 26 people have been charged over the Oregon occupation, including several who were also involved in the 2014 Nevada standoff.

The Bundy family has become popular for groups challenging federal control over vast stretches of public land in the West.

(Reporting by Blaze Lovell in Las Vegas; Writing by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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