Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his sons were released by a federal judge in Las Vegas, after she dismissed with prejudice all charges against them. Prosecutors have faced several losses in OR and Nevada arising from armed Bundy standoffs over federal control of vast stretches of land in the U.S. West.
Navarro last month declared a mistrial in the criminal conspiracy case against Bundy and his sons, saying federal prosecutors had improperly withheld evidence that could have changed the outcome of the trial.
The question of land rights has been a thorny issue for decades in western USA states, where the federal government owns most of the land. The decades-long dispute ratcheted upward in 2014, when Cliven Bundy refused to pay a $1 million bill for at least 20 years of grazing fees. On Monday, she dismissed outright all 15 counts against Bundy, his sons and Montana militia leader Ryan Payne.
Navarro, who has been roundly criticized for her handling of the case said today, "The court finds that the universal sense of justice has been violated".
Several gunmen among the protesters who had assault-style rifles were acquitted of criminal charges in two trials a year ago.
Jurors in Portland, Oregon, also acquitted Ryan and Ammon Bundy more than a year ago of taking over a federal wildlife refuge in early 2016 and calling for the US government to turn over public land to local control.More news: Trump could be interviewed over Russian Federation 'within weeks'
In court on Monday, Judge Navarro also pointed to the government's failure to provide information related to a Federal Bureau of Investigation surveillance camera placed on public land near the Bundy residence for two days in April 2014, as part of "grossly shocking" and "egregious" prosecutorial conduct. Outnumbered government agents soon retreated from the property.
He became an icon for the anti-government rightwing after engaging in an armed standoff with government agents who attempted to confiscate his cattle.
A new trial date had been set for next month, but Navarro ruled Monday that a new trial would provide the prosecution with an unfair advantage, according to The Arizona Republic. The government said the Bundys' incendiary language and actions led to the armed standoff outside the family's ranch about an hour north of Las Vegas.
On December 21, Navarro declared a mistrial, finding the prosecutors in violation of the defendants' due process rights.
Navarro cited reports from the FBI, BLM and other federal agencies assessing just how much of a threat the Bundys might pose to law enforcement in the event that the government tried to impound their livestock.
"The failure of this case will only embolden this violent and racist anti-government movement that wants to take over our public lands", he added.