“This isn’t so much about defending Cliven Bundy or others charged in a federal conspiracy case as it is about the rights of the press and public to know what’s going on,” said Barbara Ellestad, Mesquite Local News editor referring to a court order allowing Battle Born Media, Las Vegas Review-Journal and The Associated Press to oppose a government request to withhold evidence from the public in an upcoming trial.
The Mesquite Local News is one of seven Nevada newspapers owned by Battle Born Media (BBM).
“Mesquite readers should know we’re fighting for transparency in this local case,” said Sherm Frederick, one of the BBM owners.
Attorney Maggie McLetchie who represents the media outlets said “We are very pleased that our concerns with the protective order will be considered by the court, and agree that transparency is especially important due to the nature of the Bundy case. Allowing the media to be heard on a protective order that could operate as a gag order will promote transparency and trust in the judicial system.”
“The court finds that allowing intervention will promote transparency and the integrity of the judicial proceedings in this case,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen said as she handed down her order on Friday, July 1.
The case charges Bundy and 18 other defendants with conspiracy and other federal crimes stemming from an April 2014 stand-off in Bunkerville with BLM agents and employees who attempted to round up hundreds of cattle allegedly grazing illegally in the Gold Butte Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Prosecutors have asked for a protective order against release of any documents or information during the pending trial as a way to ensure the safety of witnesses. In May, Judge Leen granted an interim order maintaining the confidentiality of the evidence including search warrant affidavits and FBI investigative reports.
Judge Leen must hold a hearing on the protective order for it to take effect. No date has been set for the hearing. The federal trial has been set for Feb. 6, 2017. Until then it appears all 19 defendants will remain in jail.