It’s not like the FBI isn’t under fire already, with its unwillingness to refer charges against Hillary Clinton amid evidence she mishandled classified information and the investigation by mostly Clinton-supporting investigators into allegations the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election.
Now, there’s another issue: Two men acquitted of charges in the 2014 Bunkerville, Nevada, standoff involving rancher Cliven Bundy are suing the FBI and former Director James Comey for “malicious prosecution,” claiming the bureau presented false evidence in their case and destroyed exculpatory evidence.
Montana resident Ricky Lovelien and Idaho resident Steven Stewart were cleared of 10 charges they faced but spent a year-and-a-half in jail without bail, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
They were accused of driving from other states to Bunkerville to support Bundy, who was under fire from the government for allegedly trying to halt federal agents from rounding up his cattle.
Now lawsuits have been filed on their behalf by lawyer Larry Klayman under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
“Steven Stewart’s claim lies against certain agents, employees, and/or directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, including James Comey and unnamed John and/or Jane Does who presented false evidence to the U.S. Department of Justice and engaged in the destruction of evidence which caused the malicious prosecution of Mr. Stewart and for which he was imprisoned without bail for a year and one half,” the complaint states.
“This severely harmed Mr. Stewart’s economic and other means of livelihood and caused extreme emotional distress. Mr. Stewart was deprived of his freedom in violation of the 5th Amendment, and his right to bear arms under the 2nd Amendment and his right to protest under the 1st Amendment to the Constitution,” it explains.
The standoff at Bunkerville had attracted individuals from all across the country, when, the complaint charges, “FBI and other federal agents violently assault[ed] Mr. Bundy’s family members before and during their efforts to seize the land that Mr. Bundy’s family had ranched on for decades.”
Stewart “was unarmed throughout the entirety of the standoff and obeyed all of the commands issued by the federal agents.”
Nevertheless, he was accused of conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to impede a federal officer, carrying a firearm, assault on a federal officer and threatening an officer.
Klayman states in the complaint: “It was clear from the very beginning that the FBI did not possess any real evidence to substantiate any of the charges brought against Mr. Stewart – since none existed – but still pursued his prosecution anyway and did, in fact, cause the DOJ to indict and prosecute Mr. Stewart.
“The FBI agents at the subject of this complaint improperly influenced the U.S. attorney for the district of Nevada to prosecute Mr. Stewart as a direct result of pressure from, and on direct orders from, former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department.”
It was the FBI, along with the Bureau of Land Management, DOJ and others “working in concert, [who] actually engaged in the obstruction of justice by destroying and spoiling evidence and hiding of exculpatory evidence to try to obtain a wrongful conviction against Mr. Stewart.”
Stewart ended up in jail for about 18 months, Klayman explained.
The claim is directed to the FBI, and another was sent to the BLM and Department of the Interior.
Stewart is asking for about $58,000 in damages.
Similar concerns are raised over the prosecution of Rick Lovelien, who is claiming damages of about $8,300 for, among other things, a frozen water line in his home that burst because he was in jail and there was no one to empty the lines or run a heater.
Politico reported this week that the “drumbeat” of criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is commissioned to probe Russian influence on the election, has gotten louder.
Republicans have now called for a special counsel to investigate the special counsel.