Originally Published: August 23, 2016 6 a.m.
LAS VEGAS — Two men are expected to plead guilty in Nevada this week to federal charges stemming from an armed confrontation with U.S. land management agents over grazing rights near cattleman Cliven Bundy’s ranch, according to court records and their attorneys.
The charges stem from a tense gunpoint standoff in April 2014 on an Interstate 15 freeway overpass about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
No shots were fired, and no one was injured. But U.S. Bureau of Land Management agents retreated at gunpoint and gave up an effort to round up cattle from public land close to Bundy’s ranch near Bunkerville.
Defendant Gerald “Jerry” DeLemus of Rochester, New Hampshire, is scheduled to enter his plea Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro.
Blaine Cooper of Humboldt, Arizona, is due in court Thursday for his change-of-plea.
DeLemus and Cooper each pleaded not guilty in March to 11 counts including conspiracy, obstruction, weapon possession and use, threatening and assaulting federal officers, and interstate extortion. If convicted of the charges, the men could face decades in prison.
DeLemus and Cooper are each accused of being “mid-level” organizers, recruiters and trainers of armed Bundy backers during and after the confrontation.
The two men will be the first among 19 defendants to enter pleas in Nevada in the case that involves Cliven Bundy, four of his adult sons and 14 other men being held in custody following their arrests earlier this year.
Seven Nevada defendants, including Cooper and Bundy sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy, were also among 26 people charged in Portland, Oregon, with conspiracy, weapon, theft and damaging government property counts in a 41-day occupation of a wildlife refuge earlier this year.
Eleven people have taken plea deals in the Oregon case, including Cooper and three others — Brian Cavalier and Joseph O’Shaughessy of Arizona, and Ryan Payne of Montana — who each also face charges in the Nevada case.
In court filings in Las Vegas, Navarro indicated she has signed plea agreements from DeLemus and Cooper. The documents haven’t been made public.
DeLemus’ attorney, Brian Smith, and Cooper’s lawyer, Matthew Lay, declined to comment about terms of the plea deals until they’re entered in court — including charges and possible sentences.
Smith called his client’s decision to plead guilty “gut-wrenching.”
“He decided it was time to bring this to a close,” Smith said,
DeLemus has been politically active in New Hampshire, where he ran for Strafford County sheriff in 2014. His wife, Susan DeLemus, is a Republican state assemblywoman.
The battle with the federal government made Cliven Bundy and his adult sons well-known as advocates for states’ rights. Bundy maintains that he has homestead rights to let his cows roam freely over arid rangeland around his 160-acre cattle ranch.
The government says the cattle are trespassing and that Bundy owes millions of dollars in unpaid grazing fees and penalties.