LAS VEGAS — Nevada rancher and anti-authority figure Cliven Bundy lost a renewed bid Thursday for release from jail ahead of trial on federal conspiracy and assault charges stemming from an armed standoff against government agents two years ago.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Carl Hoffman pointed to the violence alleged in an indictment accusing Bundy of inciting the impasse to stop a roundup of cattle from public land near his ranch in April 2014, and to a history of Bundy ignoring federal court orders.
"You say you'll continue to do 'whatever it takes,'" Hoffman said in a Las Vegas courtroom where some Bundy backers wore brown T-shirts emblazoned with the three-word slogan.
"I do not believe, Mr. Bundy, that you will comply with my court orders any more than you have complied with previous court orders," the judge said.
Bundy and four of his adult sons are among 19 people now facing federal charges that could put them in prison for the standoff for the rest of their lives.
The scene pitted a self-styled militia perched on an Interstate 15 overpass, pointing military-style AR-15 and AK-47 weapons at federal Bureau of Land Management agents and contract cowboys herding cattle toward a corral. Dozens were in the possible crossfire, but no shots were fired and no one was injured. The cattle were freed.
Bundy's defense lawyer, Joel Hansen, said his client simply won't acknowledge that federal law applies. That consistent denial led Bundy last week to decline to enter a plea to charges including conspiracy, assault on a federal officer, threatening a federal officer, obstruction and firearms offenses. Hoffman entered a not-guilty plea at that time on Bundy's behalf.
Hansen characterizes the 69-year-old Bundy as a political prisoner being held illegally for challenging authority. Bundy insists he has property rights dating back more than a century, to when his Mormon ancestors settled along the Virgin River, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Prosecutor Steven Myhre fought to prevent Thursday's hearing from taking place. He argued that Bundy already had an Oregon court appearance to decide whether he would stay jailed following his Feb. 10 arrest at Portland International Airport. He wasn't entitled to another, Myhre said.
But Hoffman allowed it, calling 33 letters that Hansen submitted from Bundy supporters new evidence that had come to light in recent weeks.
Hansen said the letters showed Bundy was honest, religious and "a man of integrity, who keeps his word."
"He's not going to hurt anybody," the defense attorney said.
Bundy can appeal his detention order to the U.S. district judge who'll handle the trial. A May 2 court date is likely to be pushed back after co-defendants are brought to Nevada from Utah, Idaho, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and New Hampshire. Five defendants who were arrested in Arizona made initial court appearances in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Several people who face charges with Bundy in the Nevada standoff also have been charged in the occupation of an Oregon nature preserve that aimed to oppose federal land restrictions. A judge on Wednesday prohibited U.S. marshals from transferring Cliven Bundy's sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy and others to Nevada for court hearings.
About a dozen Bundy family members and supporters peacefully demonstrated outside the courthouse before Thursday's hearing. They were watched by almost as many uniformed Las Vegas police and U.S. marshals.