3 Dramatic Failures of the US Justice System
Russ Chastain 01.05.18
A recent article in USA Today takes a look at “the FBI’s sordid history of withholding and destroying key evidence,” citing as its most recent example the case of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, and looking back on a number of other well-documented examples of our justice system’s pattern of injustice.
1) Cliven Bundy
Bundy’s family was targeted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and although the federal government insisted they were simply going after an offender, it turns out the Bundys were telling the truth all along.
Surprised? Neither am I.
The Bundys have long claimed the feds were on a vendetta against them, and 3,300 pages of documents the Justice Department wrongfully concealed from their lawyers provides smoking guns that buttress their case.
A whistleblowing memo by BLM chief investigator Larry Wooten charges that BLM chose “the most intrusive, oppressive, large scale and militaristic trespass cattle (seizure) possible” against Bundy. He also cited a “widespread pattern of bad judgment, lack of discipline, incredible bias, unprofessionalism and misconduct, as well as likely policy, ethical and legal violations” by BLM officials in the case. BLM agents even “bragged about roughing up Dave Bundy, grinding his face into the ground and Dave Bundy having little bits of gravel stuck in his face” while he was videotaping federal agents. Wooten also stated that anti-Mormon prejudice pervaded BLM’s crackdown.
The Bundys called for help from armed Americans, a.k.a. the militia, after FBI snipers surrounded their home. This call spurred charges of conspiracy against the Bundys; but it’s now been proven that snipers were indeed in place around the home of this innocent–but targeted–family. There could be no excuse for placing these snipers because more than one threat assessment indicated the family was neither violent nor dangerous, and one 2012 FBI analysis concluded the BLM was “trying to provoke a conflict.”
They succeeded in murdering Robert LaVoy Finicum, a friend of the family who was standing with his hands held high at the time he was shot in the back and killed.
For now, though, pressure has eased a bit for the Bundy family.
On Dec. 20, federal judge Gloria Navarro declared a mistrial in the case against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and others after prosecutors were caught withholding massive amounts of evidence undermining federal charges.
Prosecutors are reportedly working to once again attack the Bundys in court, claiming their failure to disclose pertinent evidence was “inadvertent.”
2) Randy Weaver/Ruby Ridge
When the federal government targeted Randy Weaver in the mountains of Idaho in 1990, they entrapped him, invaded his property, and murdered his wife and son. It was later revealed that much of the evidence against Weaver had been fabricated and that prosecutors had acted improperly.
The Justice Department claimed that Weaver conspired to have an armed confrontation with the government. Bizarrely, the feds claimed that his moving from Iowa to near the Canadian border in 1983 was part of that plot. After a jury found Weaver not guilty on all major charges, federal Judge Edward Lodge issued a lengthy catalog of the Justice Department’s and FBI’s misconduct and fabrication of evidence in the case. A top FBI official was later sent to prison for destroying key evidence in the case.
3) Waco/Branch Davidians
In 1993, Janet Reno’s militaristic attack and 51-day siege against a group known as the Branch Davidians resulted in the death of at least 82 private citizens and 4 ATF agents. A number of survivors were brought up on charges in the aftermath.
The Justice Department also did the conspiracy/suppression of evidence two-step against the Branch Davidians in Waco. A grand jury indictment accused 11 Davidians who survived 1993 federal assaults on their home of conspiring “with malice aforethought” to kill Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agents. The ATF’s decision to launch a frontal attack on their home somehow proved that the residents sought an “armed confrontation.” Prosecutors compared Davidian leader David Koresh to Hitler and Stalin and denounced defendants as “religious terrorists.” But a jury rejected the most serious charges against the Davidian defendants, which the New York Times characterized as a “stunning defeat” for the federal government. Five years later, Americans learned that, contrary to Justice Department assertions, FBI attackers fired pyrotechnic grenades into the Davidians’ property before a massive fire erupted that left 80 people dead.
In his final paragraph, James Bovard sums up the current situation, Bundys et al:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is ordering a formal investigation into how the Justice Department went awry in Nevada. Until the feds cease wrongfully abusing their targets, there will be no rebound in trust in Washington. If the Trump administration cannot rein in renegade federal prosecutors, the president should cease-and-desist any and all claptrap about “draining the swamp.”