BOISE -- Four men from Idaho were among 14 people indicted Thursday on federal charges connected to an armed standoff in Nevada.
The Idaho defendants are 32-year-old Eric J. Parker of Hailey, 44-year-old O. Scott Drexler of Challis, 36-year-old Steven A. Stewart of Hailey and 48-year-old Todd C. Engel, of Boundary County.
The men are all charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer, using and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, assault on a federal officer, threatening a federal law enforcement officer, obstruction of the due administration of justice, interference with interstate commerce by extortion and interstate travel in aid of extortion.
The charges stem from a 2014 dispute between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and Bureau of Land Management agents over grazing fees on public land.
According to the indictment, Bundy illegally grazed his cattle on a section of public land near Bunkerville for more than 20 years without paying grazing fees, despite repeated warnings from the BLM. In 2013, a district court ruled that if Bundy did not remove his cattle from the public land, they would be subject to seizure by the federal government.
Bundy did not comply, and when the BLM informed him the next year that they would seek to impound his cattle, the rancher vowed he "would do whatever it takes" to stop the seizure, and promised a "range war" with the BLM, according to the indictment.
The indictment alleges Bundy and other leaders of the standoff recruited hundreds of armed people to come to the Bundy Ranch and interfere with the BLM's attempts to round up Bundy's cattle.
Prosecutors say the group blocked BLM convoys, threatened violence and brandished and pointed guns including assault rifles at federal agents.
The standoff came to a head April 12, 2014, when Bundy's followers massed on the impoundment site where about 400 of Bundy's cattle were being held, taking sniper positions and pointing guns at the outnumbered officers who had formed a human line across a wash to halt the crowd, according to the indictment.
Fearing a shootout that would harm the officers and unarmed people in the crowd - some of which were being used as human shields by the gunmen, according to the indictment - the officers abandoned their spot and the seized cattle, which were gathered up by Bundy's followers.
The four Idahoans are referred to in the indictment as "gunmen."
Also charged in the new indictment are are 41-year-old Melvin D. Bundy of Round Mountain, Nevada; 39-year-old David H. Bundy of Delta, Utah; 44-year-old Brian D. Cavalier of Bunkerville; Blaine Cooper of Humboldt, Arizona; 61-year-old Gerald A. DeLemus of Rochester, New Hampshire; 52-year-old Richard R. Lovelien of Westville, Oklahoma; 52-year-old Gregory P. Burleson of Phoenix; 43-year-old Joseph D. O’Shaughnessy of Cottonwood, Arizona; and 31-year-old Micah L. McGuire and 30-year-old Jason D. Woods both of Chandler, Arizona.
All but Cavalier and Cooper, who were already in custody, were arrested Thursday.
Charges were previously leveled against Cliven Bundy, his sons Ryan and Ammon Bundy, Ryan Payne, of Anaconda, Montana; and Peter T. Santilli Jr. of Cincinnati.
The four Idahoans - Drexler, Parker, Engel and Stewart - made their first appearance in federal court in Boise Friday morning in front of Judge Candy Dale.
All four of the men requested and were granted a public defender to represent them. Parker, Drexel and Stewart have detention hearings set for March 9. Engel, who was arrested in North Idaho and appeared in court via video conference from Coeur d'Alene, is scheduled for a hearing March 10.
Bonds have not been set for the four suspects.
The courtroom gallery was packed with people, some of whom sported 3 Percent Idaho shirts, during the first three hearings. A smaller group stuck around for Engel's video conference.
Justin Stucker of Kuna said he came to the courthouse to support the four Idaho defendants and learn more about their charges.
"A lot of us support their cause and what they believe in, just not necessarily how some of it went about," he said.
The maximum possible penalties for the charges are listed below:
Conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States: five years and a $250,000 fine
Conspiracy to impede and injure a federal law enforcement officer: six years and a $250,000 fine
Assault on a federal law enforcement officer: 20 years and a $250,000 fine
Threatening a federal law enforcement officer: 10 years and a $250,000 fine
Obstruction of the due administration of justice: 10 years and a $250,000 fine
Interference with interstate commerce by extortion: 20 years and a $250,000 fine
Interstate travel in aid of extortion: 20 years and a $250,000 fine
Use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence: Minimum of five years and maximum of life in prison, to be served consecutively with sentencing on other charges.
Live Blog Idaho men indicted in connection to 2014 armed standoff in Nevada