Idaho lawmakers want charges dropped aginst Idaho men in Bundy standoff
Republican Idaho representative Dorothy Moon and more than one-third of the other legislators in her state sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, encouraging him to drop the charges against two Idaho men charged in association with the April 2014 Bundy standoff, to establish a fair bail for one, and to give one a time served sentence.
Eric Parker and O. Scott Drexler, both from Idaho, were tried twice in U.S. District Court under Judge Gloria Navarro. Both trials resulted in a hung jury, and the men were both acquitted of most charges in the second trial.
The men were acquitted of conspiracy and extortion charges and more, but one juror held out on the charges of assault on a federal officer for both men and threatening a federal officer for Parker, along with associated charges due to the men being armed.
With an 11-1 vote in favor of acquittal, Moon and many of her fellow state legislators believe the men are indeed not guilty by way of no guilty charges.
“As far as I’m concerned, they have been found not guilty,” said the former school teacher, who grew up in Missouri.
Ammon Bundy, Idaho resident and son of Cliven Bundy, who owns the ranch where the standoff took place, should be given a reasonable bail and turned loose until his trial begins, the letter said. In addition, the legislators asked that Todd Engel, the only Idahoan to be found guilty of any charges thus far, be sentenced only to time served, which has amounted to more than 18 months in federal prison as he waited for his trial and now awaits sentencing.
Engel was found guilty of obstruction and traveling across state lines in aid of extortion, and he faces up to 30 years in prison.
Moon penned a letter on Aug. 27 and within two days garnered signatures from 33 other legislators.
“I wanted to get the letter done by the 29th because the post office is 45 minutes from my house, and I wanted (President Donald) Trump and Sessions to get it within a couple of days,” she said.
GETTING A MAJORITY
Since then, more legislators signed on, and Moon said they are just two legislators shy of getting a majority of the state lawmakers to sign the letter.
“U.S. Attorneys have been unsuccessful in obtaining guilty verdicts not once, but twice, establishing criteria for dismissal of charges against them according to our standards of justice. Further exploitation of these citizens would be an affront to justice and notice to the public of prosecutorial harassment,” said the group in the letter.
“We believe that the decision by the current U.S. Attorney of Nevada to prosecute these men a third time represents disrespect for the rule of law and the jury system. A third trial would show blatant disregard for tax funds collected from hard-working, law-abiding citizens who are represented by these juries whom have been found the innocent of 34 of the 40 charges and hung by the very slimmest margins in those where the jury stood deadlocked. The decisions of 10-2 to acquit in the first trial and 11-1 to acquit in the second trial highlights the narrow margin by which the prosecution hopes to continue their attack.”
Moon’s heard Nevada, Arizona and Montana state lawmakers are considering their own letters, urging Sessions to drop charges against citizens of their states or to give them reasonable bail.
Ninety seven percent of Custer County, Idaho, where Moon lives, is under federal management, she said. “It’s a huge county. It’s bigger than most eastern states. We don’t even have a stoplight,” Moon said. “It’s very rural and everyone’s livelihoods have been under attack for decades. People are sick of it. I think that’s why the Bundy issue was so well followed and so many people showed up.”
Moon said she ran for office for the first time last year. “Boise County (in her district) had a huge fire, it wiped out half of the county. Logging had been held up for eight years and when timber sales were finally approved, guess what, it caught on fire.”
Moon said she got involved in politics to “fight the so-called environmentalists. They aren’t really environmentalists. Nobody who cared about the environment would want to put all of these pollutants in the air, or kill all of these animals and plants and ruin these watersheds.”
The continued attempts to try the same men for the same charges is overkill, according to Moon.
“This prosecution sends a chilling message to the public who are concerned about federal overreach in their daily lives that is inharmonious to well-established constitutional guarantees,” said the signers of the letter.
Moon said if the federal prosecutors don’t drop the case as she and her cohorts suggested, she will travel to Las Vegas to watch at least part of the third trial for Drexler and Parker. She also is considering a trip to Washington, D.C., to talk with Sessions or his staff.
“It’s a full-court press. I think there are other western states and think tanks considering joining in,” Moon said.
Parker, Drexler, Ammon Bundy and several others involved in the Bundy standoff is scheduled to begin Oct. 16 in Las Vegas. ❖