LAS VEGAS — Media organizations can argue for the release of documents that federal prosecutors want to shield from public view in a criminal case involving Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's 2014 armed standoff with government agents, a judge decided Friday.
An order by Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen didn't immediately open the court filings sought by The Associated Press, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and rural Nevada newspaper publisher Battle Born Media.
But she said media lawyers will be allowed to oppose prosecutors' contentions that disclosing evidence could expose witnesses to intimidation and court officials to possible violence from Bundy supporters.
The case "has generated considerable public debate about the constitutional role of the federal government in owning large amounts of land in the western United States," Leen wrote. "The court finds that allowing intervention will promote transparency and the integrity of the judicial proceedings."
U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden and prosecutors in the Bundy case didn't immediately respond to messages. They could appeal Leen's order to U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro.
A temporary order currently requires defense lawyers to keep confidential the evidence that the government shares with them. Most defense teams have also filed documents opposing the proposed gag order.
Attorney Margaret McLetchie, representing the media organizations, argues it's an infringement on First Amendment free speech and press rights.
Bundy and 18 other defendants have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, obstruction, weapon, threat and assault charges in the tense gunpoint standoff in April 2014 against government agents and cowboy contractors.
All 19 are in custody, with trial scheduled next February.