Cliven Bundy, a famed Nevada cattle rancher who led a standoff with the federal government in 2014, walked away a free man when a federal judge dismissed all charges against him and three others on Monday.
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro dropped all charges after she found prosecutors willfully withheld evidence from Bundy's lawyers, engaging in "flagrant prosecutorial misconduct."
"The court finds that the universal sense of justice has been violated," Navarro said.
Since prosecutors withheld evidence, the cattle rancher's due process rights were found to be violated. Navarro was citing the so-called "Brady rule," a reference to a landmark 1963 Supreme Court case, Brady vs. Maryland.
Bundy's two sons and another rancher also saw their charges dropped.
The courtroom erupted in cheers from Bundy supporters as the judge handed down her ruling, according to Fox News. Bundy, was jailed some 700 days during the legal process. Bundy has referred to the time spent behind bars as "political" imprisonment.
“In this case the failures to comply with Brady were exquisite, extraordinary,” said Fox News' Judge Andrew Napolitano. “The judge exercised tremendous patience. Either the government lied or [its actions were] so grossly negligent as to be tantamount to lying,” the Fox News judge added. “This happened over and over again.”
The nation was transfixed by a standoff with Bundy and his crew against the feds in 2014 after a 20-plus-year dispute over his land. Bundy "didn’t recognize the authority of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over the sovereign state of Nevada," Fox said.
Things escalated in 2014 when the feds tried to take action against the rancher for trespassing; Bundy and company fought back, temporarily winning the surrender of the feds after a tense, armed standoff, according to Fox:
Things came to a head in 2014, when officials planned to capture and impound cattle trespassing on government land. Protesters, many armed, tried to block the authorities, which led to a standoff. ... Tensions escalated until officials, fearing for the general safety, announced they would return Bundy’s cattle and suspend the roundup.
Bundy took the win and didn't look back, continuing to graze his cattle on his land and refusing to pay the fines adding up.
Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan, and militia member Ryan Payne, were handed down felony charges, including assault on a federal agent, conspiracy, and using a firearm in a violent crime.
Navarro said on Monday that the FBI "was involved in the prosecution and it was not a coincidence that most of the evidence that was held back," according to reporting from AZCentral.
A massive crowd of Bundy supporters gathered outside the courtroom erupted in cheers when the news broke that Bundy was a free man.