In a stunning setback to federal prosecutors planning to try the Bundy family patriarch and two adult sons later this year, the jury acquitted Ricky Lovelien and Steven Stewart of all 10 charges, and delivered not-guilty findings on most charges against Scott Drexler and Eric Parker.
More than 30 defendants' supporters in the courtroom broke into applause after Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro ordered Lovelien and Stewart freed immediately and set Wednesday morning hearings to decide if Parker and Drexler should remain jailed pending a government decision whether to seek a third trial.
"Random people off the streets, these jurors, they told the government again that we're not going to put up with tyranny," said a John Lamb, a Montana resident who attended almost all the five weeks of trial, which began with jury selection July 10.
And wow again!
Drexler's attorney, Todd Leventhal, referred to defense teams' complaints that Judge Navarro set such strict rules of evidence that defendants weren't able to tell why they traveled to the Bundy ranch.
The judge rejected testimony from five prospective defense witnesses, and Drexler and Parker were the only defendants to testify in their defense. However, the judge struck Parker's testimony for what she said was a deliberate failure to keep his testimony within her rules.
All four defense attorneys declined Aug. 15 to make closing arguments, a gesture of standing mute that Leventhal said may have had an effect on the jury.
"As much as we were shut down from bringing anything up, the jury saw through it," he said.
Now I'm not familiar with why the judge ruled this way, although I can think of several reasons to legitimately limit some testimony. However, to refuse to allow that many defense witnesses and to strike the testimony of one of the accused because he didn't stay within her rules seems a bit much. Kind of like she was trying to hamstring their defense from the beginning. Who really knows, but that's an eyebrow raiser.