Nevada U.S. Attorney Sits on Criminal Referrals From BLM
35 Prosecution Requests Made on April 30th Still in Limbo as DOJ Withholds Status
Washington, DC — Two weeks after the highly-publicized armed confrontation with renegade rancher Cliven Bundy and self-styled militia supporters, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management filed 35 formal requests for prosecution with the U.S. Attorney in Nevada but all these charges have been held without action, according to records released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Justice Department is also refusing to release information specifying the specific counts and the individuals named in these criminal referrals.
The cases are listed as active and have been neither accepted nor declined for prosecution during the ensuing four months after BLM filed them. Filed on April 30, 2014, the 35 criminal referrals exceed the number of all other criminal referrals filed by BLM during the rest of the fiscal year, and are five times the greatest number of cases BLM has ever filed in any one month. All are lodged with the U.S. Attorney’s Reno Branch and are assigned to Assistant U.S. Attorney Megan Rachow. A 36th referral filed by BLM with the Las Vegas Branch on April 10, 2014 is similarly held in secrecy by the U.S. Attorney with no reported action.
“A criminal referral is the toughest option available to a land management agency like BLM, but that action is toothless if the U.S. Attorney ignores it,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that in the case of Bundy who is operating without a permit, BLM has no administrative options available. “BLM cannot do its job without legal support from the Justice Department.”
In July, PEER released a threat assessment from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security concluding that continued inaction is seen as a “perceived victory” by anti-government militias which “will likely inspire additional anti-government violence over the next year.” That assessment also pointed to “the recent murders of two Las Vegas police officers [as] the latest and most severe in a growing trend of anti-government violence.”
Following the mid-April stand-off, no action has been taken against Bundy or militia snipers who targeted law enforcement officers. Bundy’s cattle also continue to graze illegally on national park and range lands.
“Cloaking these cases only adds to the impression that this is a stall, not a deliberative pause,” Ruch added, noting that PEER is already suing BLM to force release of information explaining its actions, including the criminal referrals, the fact that the situation was allowed to fester for years, as well as for the latest numbers of assaults and threats made against its employees. “Tolerating flagrant law-breaking for years is how the present situation festered to fruition. We are apparently repeating the same mistake.”
The case reports cited by PEER are drawn from databases compiled by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) displaying information from Justice Department data-tapes reflecting the criminal workload of U.S. Attorneys offices throughout the 90 federal districts and U.S. territories.