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4:11 AM Sat, Nov. 17th

Judge dismisses standoff case vs. Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, sons

This undated combination of file photos provided by the Multnomah County, Ore., Sheriff’s Office shows, from left, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his sons Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy and co-defendant Ryan Payne.

Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office/AP

This undated combination of file photos provided by the Multnomah County, Ore., Sheriff’s Office shows, from left, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his sons Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy and co-defendant Ryan Payne.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A judge in Las Vegas on Monday dismissed criminal charges against a Nevada rancher and his sons accused of leading an armed uprising against federal authorities in 2014.

Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro signaled when she declared a mistrial last month that she might dismiss the case outright against 71-year-old Cliven Bundy, sons Ryan and Ammon Bundy, and Montana militia leader Ryan Payne.

The judge severely criticized prosecutors for willfully violating the due process rights of the defendants, including failing to properly turn over evidence to their lawyer.

But she gave the government a chance to submit written documents opposing dismissal of all charges.

The decision is sure to reverberate among states’ rights advocates in the Western U.S., where the federal government controls vast land that some people want to protect and others want to use for grazing, mining and oil and gas drilling.

The tense armed standoff outside Bunkerville, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) northeast of Las Vegas, stopped a federal Bureau of Land Management roundup of Bundy cattle from public land including what is now Gold Butte National Monument.

About three dozen heavily armed federal agents guarding corrals in a dry riverbed faced hundreds of flag-waving men, women and children calling for the release of some 400 cows. The cattle had been rounded up under court orders issued over Bundy letting his herd graze for 20 years without paying government fees.

No shots were fired before the outnumbered and outgunned federal agents withdrew.

Several gunmen among the protesters who had assault-style rifles were acquitted of criminal charges in two trials last year.