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Cliven Bundy: 'We're not done with this'

A defiant Cliven Bundy walked out of a Las Vegas courthouse Monday a free man after a judge threw out the case against the 71-year-old rancher and his two sons. They were accused of leading a standoff with federal agents in 2014.

U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro cited "flagrant prosecutorial misconduct" in her decision to dismiss all charges against the Nevada rancher and three others.

"The court finds that the universal sense of justice has been violated," Navarro said.

"We're not done with this," the 71-year-old Bundy declared in his first minutes of freedom since his arrest in February 2016.

The family patriarch and states' rights figure said he had been held as a political prisoner for 700 days and promised that if U.S. Bureau of Land Management agents come again to seize his cattle over unpaid grazing fees, they will encounter "the very same thing as last time."

"The whole world is looking at us," he said. "'Why is America acting like this? Why are we allowing the federal government, these bureaucracies, to have armies?' That's a big question the whole world wants to know."

The stunning collapse of the federal criminal case against Cliven Bundy and his sons Ryan and Ammon marked a new low for government lawyers whose work is now under review by the Trump administration. Prosecutors have faced several losses in Oregon and Nevada arising from armed Bundy standoffs over federal control of vast stretches of land in the U.S. West.

Of the six other men who faced a trial for their role in the 2014 confrontation, only two were convicted of some charges — and none of them was convicted of conspiracy.

Monday's ruling proved the coup de grace, capping the series of legal stumbles and inspiring concerns from officials in the region. Specifically, many current and retired federal land managers worry the failure to prosecute Bundy could jeopardize the safety of federal field workers in the West.

For the Bundys, however, the moment marked a significant victory. They left the courthouse after the ruling bearing smiles and vows to continue fighting what they see as federal overreach.

"I want to say this: We have rights," Ammon Bundy told reporters, with a Bible tucked in one armpit. "We're not going to walk away from them and just let them be taken."

At the height of the Oregon occupation, authorities pulled over some of the group’s leaders when they traveled outside the refuge. Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a 54-year-old rancher who acted as the group’s spokesman, was fatally shot during the January 2016 encounter. Authorities said the shooting was justified, but last year a special agent with an elite FBI team was indicted and accused of firing shots during that episode and then trying to cover it up.

Conservation and environmental advocates quickly railed against the judge’s decision, which they said could embolden others to engages in standoffs against federal authorities who try to protect public lands. Michael Blumm, a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland and a scholar on environmental and public lands laws, said he feared the acquittals of people involved in the standoffs in Oregon and Nevada could lead to similar confrontations elsewhere.

“That would truly be unfortunate because these are criminal occupations and, if replicated elsewhere, will likely produce jail time for the vigilantes,”

Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said prosecutors “clearly bungled this case and let the [Bundy family] get away with breaking the law.” The Center for Western Priorities, a conservation and advocacy group, said the outcome “should send a chill down the spines of anyone who values our parks, wildlife refuges, and all public lands.”

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