For the second time, a federal jury in Las Vegas, Nevada, has acquitted four men accused of taking up arms against federal agents at the ranch of Cliven Bundy in 2014.
After more than three days of deliberation, jurors returned not guilty verdicts for Ricky Lovelien and Steven Stewart on Tuesday, clearing them of all 10 counts they faced, according to the Associated Press.
Defendants Scott Drexler and Eric Parker were also found not guilty of most charges against them. The jury was unable to reach verdicts on four charges against Parker and two charges against Drexler.
Chief US District Judge Gloria Navarro ordered Lovelien and Stewart to be freed immediately and set a hearing Wednesday to decide if Parker and Drexler should be freed or if prosecutors will try them for a third time.
Acting US Attorney Steven Myhre said prosecutors have not decided if they will retry Drexler and Parker on the remaining counts, according to the Las Vegas Journal-Review.
In total, prosecutors accused 17 men of conspiring with the Bundy family and threatening federal agents with weapons during a standoff on the Bundy ranch in 2014. The defendants were among hundreds who traveled from across the country to support Bundy.
For years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ordered Bundy to remove his cattle from federal lands. When Bundy refused to comply, BLM obtained a court order to seize nearly 1,000 head of cattle as payment for more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees. The standoff ended when the government returned the cattle it had seized from Bundy and left the area.
Each of the defendants was charged with 10 counts, including conspiracy against the government, extortion, obstruction, using a firearm during a crime of violence and assaulting a federal agent. In total, the charges carried a maximum sentence of more than 100 years in federal prison for each defendant.
Defense attorneys argued that the men were exercising their constitutional rights to protest under the First Amendment and bear arms under the Second Amendment.
However, in her ruling, Navarro barred the defendants from raising constitutional arguments, claiming that they were not applicable to the case, according to the Arizona Republic.
In April, another jury was deadlocked on all counts against the four defendants, but convicted two others on multiple counts.
Gregory Burleson, 53, of Phoenix was the first defendant to be found guilty in relation to the standoff. He was found guilty of eight felony counts and was sentenced to 68 years in prison. Another defendant, Todd Engel, was also found guilty by the same jury and is awaiting a September trial.
Bundy and his sons, along with two other groups, are to be tried later this year and next.
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