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Leah Sottile @Leah_Sottile
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There was a ton of back/forth over Taylor Grazing Act and water rights between Whipple & Schiess, in front of the jury, over what's being litigated. Schiess asked to go outside presence of jury. Navarro:"we are not going to ask the jury to judge a civil case about water rights."
Rugwell kept looking toward Schiess when she was being asked water rights stuff she couldn't answer. Whipple: "you can look at me instead of Mr Schiess." #bundytrial
Whipple: do you have any proof that a cow has harmed a desert tortoise? Rugwell: says she heard people talking about cows eating DTs (at this point I wrote in my notes WTF is going on here, because it was confusing)
Whipple then gets very excited at the assertion that cows cause harm to petroglyphs in the Gold Butte area, asking Rugwell if she would "be surprised" to learn "a cow never caused harm to a petroglyph!?!?!?!" Rugwell's like, uh, no archaeologist say they do.
Before the break, Whipple and Schiess get into it over a fish and wildlife study. Tons of objections. Whipple says "they're trying to suggestion Mr Bundy is an extremist and unreasonable when in fact the opposite is true... he's just a regular guy with an opinion!"
To clarify the earlier point, Rugwell DID answer lots of questions about how cows harm desert tortoise burrows; the eating thing was referring to some meeting she was at in which ranchers were discussing that — she wasn't saying it was true.
We saw a letter of "constructive notice" that Cliven wrote to the BLM, in which he said he was worried about "the safety of me and my family" because of "what happened at Ruby Ridge and Waco."..."I fear that my stand is an endangerment to my life & the lives of my family members"
From the same letter, Cliven wrote "they have attempted to paint me as a violent person...I take issue with" anyone who has tried to make him out to be "a wacko extremist."
Cliven's letter continued "either I have rights or a I don't have rights. There can be no in between on this matter."
Whipple at one point said to Rugwell: "I apologize if it feels like I'm picking on you." Rugwell: "It's my job to be picked on. It happens a lot."
On Philpot's cross of Rugwell, he asked if she was aware of a pioneer mark from a Bundy ancestor in the Gold Butte area. She said no. Philpot asked if she was aware of that mark being removed with a sandblaster. Schiess objects — she doesn't know of a mark...
Philpot argues to the judge that the govt was inferring that the Bundys' cows damaged petroglyphs in the area, "when in fact it was done by the BLM." Another objection from Schiess...
Then Philpot asks a whole bunch about Dan Love, if Rugwell had concerns about him or his reputation. More objections, sustained by Navarro. They move on for a minute. Philpot asks about "stock water rights" which Rugwell can't answer
Philpot: "from '93 to 2008, how would you categorize the level of concern (about the Bundys)?" Rugwell: "It was a high level of concern" but they didn't have the capacity to handle the situation, she said. Then more talk of stock water rights. Rugwell still can't answer.
Philpot asks if during her tenure if she was contacted by the Center for Biological Diversity. She says yes, they'd send her photos of the cows on the public land. Asked if they threatened lawsuits? She says she can't recall.
Philpot: "would you say you would do whatever it took to get the cows off the land?" Rugwell: "No"
Philpot asks about BLM law enforcement officers. "Do BLM agents have armaments? AR-15s?" Rugwell: "I don't know." Philpot: "would you consider using AR-15s in a cattle impoundment operation?" Objection from Schiess, sustained.
She says she wanted to be at the site of the 2012 impoundment of Bundy cattle. Philpot: "did you feel you had to be there because of Mr. Love?" Rugwell says no, felt she should be there because it was her job to make sure the impoundment was done safely for employees and public
Philpot: "did you contemplate any association with a domestic terrorism task force in 2012?" Rugwell says no, didn't recall that. Philpot asks how extensive her communications were with the FBI? She says they gave the BLM a "threat assessment"
Philpot: "do you remember that threat assessment?" Rugwell: "it said Mr Bundy wasn't a threat, basically." Philpot asks if there was anything in the court order that allowed her to impound that said the Bundys "were not allowed to protest?" She says no.
Philpot asks if Rugwell wanted to do a "paramilitary takedown" operation, to which she says no. Philpot: "did you have any desire to categorize the Bundys as domestic terrorists in your 2012 order? She says no.
On redirect, Schiess asks about Rugwell's trying to meet w/ Bundy through Commissioner Collins, which never happened. Schiess: "did you agree with the threat assessment that Cliven Bundy wasn't a threat?" Rugwell says "I had conflicting information"
Collins told Rugwell about a time Bundy had 100 people with guns around him when there was an attempt at impoundment, which made her feel the BLM had "to be very well prepared" in the event of an impound.
Schiess asks her what she knows about RR and Waco, why Bundy would bring that up, if those were incidents that involved people getting killed. She says yes. "It concerned me that [Bundy] thinking that way could create more conflict."
Then def attys got another round of ?s in: Whipple asks more about Dan Love. Rugwell didn't know much about him: "he appeared to be a young person," says she never saw his resume. Whipple asks if she had concerns "about using Dan Love" on impound. Objection from govt, sustained
Then Philpot asks ?s, says to judge that he wants govt to produce the behavioral assessment: they've asked for it & the govt hasn't produced. Navarro: "Mr Philpot, do you want me to declare a mistrial? That is completely inappropriate for you to bring that up in front of a jury?
The judge tells everyone to go into a sidebar. They talk for probably about 10 minutes while the courtroom pipes in an instrumental, classical version of Lady Gaga's "Judas." I AM NOT EVEN SHITTING YOU RIGHT NOW
They come back, Navarro tells the jury to disregard what Philpot said. And then they get to the jury's questions. They didn't do this in the #oregonstandoff trial, but the jury got to ask questions on anonymous forms of Mary Jo Rugwell.
The jury asked the following: 1. was there any study of improvements placed on public land in an official capacity? 2. who is the authority of water rights? 3. why wasn't the AUM assessed correctly? 4. was it possible for the Bundys to own land as well as the water?
Rugwell continues to emphasize the Bundys had a ranch, they could have gotten permits to graze on federal land. But they chose not to. Question 5 was "where is David A Bundy now?" That's Cliven's dad.
Then a question of "were there actually any desert tortoises or petroglyphs found on the Bundy's land?" Rugwell says yes, there are lots of DTs on the Bunkerville Allotment. Jury also asks who determines allotment borders. And if there are fences around the allotments.
More juror ?s: "what other efforts other than impoundment" were made to "lessen the potential harm to the land or the animals?" "Was Bundy's allotment overgrazed?" "Can allotments be repositioned?"
Rugwell told the jury she "would have done anything I can do to resolve this in a different way rather than impoundment" Schiess asks her more questions about what she said to the jury, then Whipple & Philpot ask more about water rights, but she still can't answer much about them
Philpot asks if she's "aware that grazing lands in Nevada are not required to be fenced." Rugwell: "yes, it's a cattle out state." Philpot: "so you have to build the fence to keep them out." Then Schiess asks more fence ?s
To which Rugwell answers that "the federal government doesn't have to fence out" on federal public lands, but basically private owners have to fence out their own land.
Court ends, but beforehand Navarro strikes up a round of applause for the security guy who takes care of the jury, and on the way out every juror shakes his hand or gives him a big hug.
Then when the jury is gone Navarro says objections will now happen at the beginning of the day, before court; that court won't go late again; that there are no more speaking objections — "they'll all happen at sidebar."
Navarro also will allow for Ryan Bundy to visit the sites in Bunkerville with the defense team this weekend, and he is being moved from a halfway house to his cousin's house in Las Vegas.
Special Agent Rand Stover will be the next witness next week, and "Mr Petrie," which I'm assuming is Justice Dept Lawyer Terry Petrie, but I don't know quite yet.
That's all I've got, folks. I won't be back next week, neither will most journalists. Today the press gallery was just a few people. If I could be here every week, I would be. Stay tuned, hope to be back sometime soon.
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