GOP lawmakers are looking into widespread abuse by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) law officials after the case against a Nevada rancher accused of multiple felonies was dismissed for “prosecutorial misconduct.”
GOP Reps. Rob Bishop of Utah and Bruce Westerman of Arkansas asked BLM Acting Director Brian Steed to investigate and report on the problems within the BLM that lead to a mistrial against Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher that led a standoff with federal law enforcement in 2014. Bishop, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Westerman, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, sent a letter with their request Wednesday.
“Approximately 91 percent of people charged with a crime in federal court are found guilty and 77 percent of defendants standing trial are convicted,” the letter says. “The failure of prosecutors to achieve a conviction in the Bundy case raises questions about the conduct of BLM law enforcement and their ability to carry out effective, fair, and professional law enforcement investigations.”
During the trial, the judge found BLM prosecutors committed six separate Brady violations for lying about the existence of or refusing to turn over evidence that was favorable to the defendants’ case. A whistleblower’s memo to the Department of Justice (DOJ) was also uncovered was also uncovered that alleged misconduct and abuse was pervasive throughout BLM’s senior law enforcement staff.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a DOJ investigation into the team of prosecutors on the Bundy case.
The lawmakers also requested what policies are being pursued to address “serious misconduct” and “systemic issues” within the agency that contributed to the bungled Bundy case and the 2015 death of Kate Steinle.
Steinle was killed after an illegal immigrant stole an unsecured firearm out of a BLM agent’s backpack. An illegal immigrant and seven-time convicted felon stole the gun and fired the shot that killed Steinle. He was found not guilty of murder, however. Steinle’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the BLM in December.
The BLM agent who was responsible for the gun that shot Steinle was never disciplined for his mistake. He was, however, promoted to a supervisory role in the agency later, the letter says.
“These types of examples continue to fuel the concerns of many Americans in the western United States, whose interactions with BLM are frequent and impactful,” the letter says. “BLM’s apparent culture of impunity for law enforcement misconduct is a detriment to the public and those employees committed to ethical service.”
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