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Jury selected for conspiracy trial of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy

By John L. Smith

By John L. Smith

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Jury selection was completed on Thursday in the trial of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and three others for their roles in a 2014 standoff between armed militia members and federal agents who had seized his cattle.

U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro said opening statements would begin next Tuesday in a case that has become a rallying cry for activists challenging U.S. government authority in the American West.

Capping four days of questioning of prospective jurors by the judge and attorneys for both sides, a panel of nine men and seven women were selected from a jury pool of about 150 individuals.

Twelve will sit as jurors, with four others as alternates.

In addition to the courtroom grilling, prospective jurors also filled out two pretrial questionnaires, one of which focused on their views of the Oct. 1 mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip that left 59 people dead.

The start of the trial was postponed for three weeks due to the shooting.

Bundy is accused of conspiring to use the threat of force to prevent a court-ordered impoundment of his cattle, which the government said trespassed on federal land after the rancher had refused for 20 years to pay his grazing fees and assessments.

Hundreds of followers, many heavily armed, rallied to Bundy's ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada, about 75 miles (120 km) northeast of Las Vegas, demanding that his livestock be returned. Outnumbered law enforcement officers ultimately retreated rather than risk bloodshed. No shots were ever fired.

The face-off marked a flashpoint in long-simmering tensions over federal control of public lands in the West and a precursor to Bundy's two sons leading an armed six-week occupation of a federal wildlife center in Oregon two years later, in 2016.

The two Bundy sons, Ammon and Ryan, were later acquitted of criminal charges stemming from the takeover in Oregon.

They are now standing trial with their father and co-defendant Ryan Payne, who prosecutors describe as a militia activist from Montana. Another co-defendant pleaded guilty on Oct. 6 to conspiracy and faces a possible six-year prison term.

Judge Navarro slated a hearing for Friday to deal with various evidentiary issues in advance of opening statements. No proceedings are scheduled for Monday.

(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)