Jul 17 2018

Bang!

by Caren Cowan, Executive Director,
New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association
Read this article & more in New Mexico Stockman Magazine

July has started off with a bang… and it wasn’t just the neighbor’s fire crackers going off at after 10:00 p.m. on July 5 in the street in front of my house.

In early July a federal judge in Nevada rejected prosecutors’ request to reconsider her dismissal of the conspiracy case against Cliven Bundy, his two sons and Ryan Payne stemming from their 2014 armed standoff with federal agents over cattle grazing near Bunkerville, according to a story by Maxine Bernstein for The Oregonian/OregonLive

U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro found prosecutors raised arguments she had already considered. She dismissed their contention that the dismissal of the case with prejudice was “unjust,’’ or that she should have ordered a less severe sanction for their failure to share evidence that could assist the defense as required by the 1963 landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brady v. Maryland.

“The Court’s finding of outrageous government conduct was not in error,’’ Navarro wrote in her 11-page ruling. “On the contrary, a universal sense of justice was violated by the Government’s failure to provide evidence that is potentially exculpatory.’’

In a motion urging the judge to reconsider the dismissal, prosecutors reiterated their unsuccessful argument that the evidence they failed to share until too late wouldn’t have been admissible anyway because they didn’t believe the defendants could argue that they acted in self-defense, were provoked or intimidated.

But the judge called that argument “outrageous’’ and made it clear that the government was not allowed to withhold evidence that would enable the Bundys and Payne to argue they acted in self-defense, or evidence they could use to challenge the charges in their indictment.

In fact, her prior order should have placed prosecutors on notice that any evidence that could bolster a theory of self-defense might become relevant at trial, Navarro wrote.

“The evidence that the Government failed to disclose, such as the insertion and positioning of snipers and cameras surveilling the Bundy home, is evidence of provocation,’’ Navarro wrote. “The Government’s theory of prosecution relies on the fact that Defendants were acting offensively instead of defensively. The evidence that the Government failed to disclose could have assisted Defendants in showing that the officers were engaging in provocative conduct and that Defendants were not the aggressors. Therefore, the undisclosed evidence might have supported a theory of self-defense.’’

The judge said she had considered alternative sanctions, such as a potential retrial or lesser penalties.

“However, the Court found that no lesser sanction would adequately deter future investigatory and prosecutorial misconduct,’’ Navarro wrote.

The judge also said she concluded the indictment could not survive as a result of the government’s violations, and did consider the potential ramifications that could result from the dismissal.

Ammon Bundy, who was released from custody in December and is now back at home in Idaho with his wife and children and trying to rebuild his fleet vehicle business, has become outspoken in recent days, arguing that the convictions of co-defendants Todd Engel and Greg Burleson, found guilty in an earlier trial, should be thrown out due to evidence that wasn’t shared at their trials but only came out piece meal during pretrial hearings and the start of the Bundys’ Nevada trial.

Burleson was sentenced in 2017 to more than 68 years in prison, found guilty of threatening a federal law enforcement officer, obstruction of justice and interstate travel in aid of extortion. Engel has yet to be sentenced for obstruction of justice and interstate travel in aid of extortion. “I just can’t sit here and say this is OK,’’ Bundy told The Oregonian/OregonLive

“I don’t believe they got a fair trial. The judge probably thinks this is all done because the Bundys went home. But I’m not going to let it be done and forgotten.’’

Hammonds Pardoned

The Bundy news was followed quickly by word that President Trump granted clemency to 79-year-old Dwight Hammond Jr., and his son Steven, 49. The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board wrote, “Trump corrects a federal injustice against two Oregon ranchers.”

The pardon power has its most compelling use when correcting a government injustice. President Trump used his authority for precisely such a purpose in pardoning the Hammonds. For details on the Hammond case and more from the Wall Street Journal, see the story on page 198.

Stampede Bets Big in New Mexico

An Illinois meat company is expanding to New Mexico, bringing with it nearly 1,300 new jobs.

Stampede Meat plans to invest $36 million renovating the former Tyson plant in Sunland Park. 1,295 new food processing and manufacturing jobs will be created over the next five years.

The company processes and distributes portioned meat for restaurants, retail, home delivery and other channels.

“This is great news for New Mexico and another example of what’s possible when businesses know they’re welcome here,” said Economic Development Secretary Matt Geisel. “The Governor’s critical reforms and steadfast commitment to economic development are showing companies from around the country and the world that New Mexico is open for business.”

The expansion was made possible through funds in the Local Economic Development Act, or LEDA. The closing fund is used as a tool to help recruit new businesses to New Mexico and help existing businesses grow and thrive.

“We are very pleased to invest in Sunland Park and are grateful to the Governor as well as the state, county and local officials who have helped us,” said Brock Furlong, CEO of Stampede Meat. “We look forward to expanding our workforce to continue to provide quality products for our customers.”

New Mexico beat out Oklahoma, Texas, and Iowa for the competitive expansion. Stampede’s headquarters is in Bridgeview, Illinois and was founded in 1995.

There will be more details on this project in the days to come.

Wolf Tally (dollars I mean)

The wolf issue is one that I will probably die working on no matter how far away my demise might be. As I hope you have heard, we are in a howl of a need for funds still or again.

The current crisis is two-folds. In April we got a bad decision on the case regarding the new 10J rule. The ruling went totally against us and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS). The court ruled that the agency must go back to the drawing board. There was also some of the ruling that sets a really bad precedent if it stands. The judge has never issued a final ruling, so the decision on whether or not to appeal doesn’t have to be made yet.

There are lots of pros and cons to an appeal. If we don’t the case will apply to all endangered species, not just wolves. If we do appeal it will be in the 9th Circuit Courts of Appeals based in San Francisco. Enough said?

The 9th has had more cases overturned than any other appeals court in the country. Rarely have their opinions been favorable to those working the land. However there have been some appointments made by this administration. If I cannot be optimistic, I couldn’t get up in the morning.

The other drawback is, of course, the cost. There is an outstanding balance with the Budd-Falen Law Offices from this case which has been going on since early 2015. And, there is a more pressing need before we cross the appeal bridge.

In May there was a status conference call between the judge and all the parties in the case. The judge asked the FWS how long it will take them to re-write the rule under the ruling. The answer was 24 to 29 months.

The judge was okay with that time frame. However, the radical environmental groups came up with a new ask. While they didn’t argue the length of time, they had a new wrinkle. They want lots of wolves released while the rule is under rewrite — starting in New Mexico this summer. The judge granted them leave to file a motion to that effect.

Initially their brief was due on June 20. They didn’t make that deadline and requested another 30 days to file it. As things sit now, their brief is due on July 20. Any briefs in opposition are now due on August 20.

In May the decision needed to be made whether or not to file a brief on this part of the case. The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA) made an early decision to proceed. It took a little while longer for the Arizona/New Mexico Coalition of Counties (Coalition) to make a decision, but they have come along.

Then came the issue of raising the funds to continue and finish the balance. NMCGA had some members and supporters step up to the plate in a big way.

Past President and current Chairman of the Litigation Committee Alisa Ogden pledged $5,000 for a match dollar for dollar with anyone donating funds for the cause. Within days, CKP Drought Insurance stepped up with a pledge of an additional $5,000.

We were able to start a fund raising campaign offering a $2 match for every $1 donated. Folks have stepped up in a big way.

During Mid-Year, John and Megan Richards and their boys donated another $5,000. AND the Coalition began receiving more donations. Special thanks to the counties in New Mexico and Arizona who have generally funded the 10J suit. Cochise County, Arizona has been a real champion.

County cattle growers’ groups and soil conservation districts have opened their checkbooks as well. The Gila County Cattle Growers’ in Arizona donated a generous amount as did the Southern Quay Soil & Water Conservation District.

We now have the funds to retire the debt and pay for the upcoming brief on the release of more wolves in the immediate future. Perhaps we will end up with enough left over to think about an appeal. Thank you to every one for every single dollar that has been donated. We will have a full list of those folks in the August Stockman.

Additionally, the FWS released their wolf recovery plan, which we have talked a lot about, in late 2017. The enviros have already filed cases against that action. A determination hasn’t yet been made if an intervention in that case is worthwhile.

Among the news July news blitz was a press release from the radicals demanding that three packs of wolves be released in the Gila Wildness this summer.

This is hollow news for those in the Gila National Forest who are suffering wolf kills daily. One member found six dead calves in one spot — four of them were confirmed kills, two were determined to be “probable.”

Fall Board Meeting

Plans are in the works for the NMCGA Fall Board meeting slated for September 17 and 18 in Santa Rosa. Like all Board meetings, all NMCGA members are invited to this meeting and we hope you will join us.

The agenda will include board training, which we hope board members from any agricultural board will join us for. There are other educational presentations in the plans, including a presentation from the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish on their newly proposed elk license plan.

In the meantime please visit www.nmagriculture.org to view the proposal.

Cattlegrowers Foundation

There is big news coming out of the Cattlegrowers Foundation, Inc. and New Mexico State University. We can’t share even a peep. Hopefully by next month we will have lots of details and big plans for the future.

Don’t forget that the Foundation is celebrating its 20th year. Please consider making a $20, $200 or more donation to the Foundation as it charges forward with raising the next generation of ranchers. For more information on the Foundation, please visit www.raisingranchers.com.

See you in September in Santa Rosa!         

Source: New Mexico Stockman, July 2018