August 23, 2017 / 1:05 AM / 2 years ago

Bundy followers found not guilty at Nevada trial: newspaper

FILE PHOTO: Scott Drexler (L), and Steve Stewart from Idaho stand watch on a bridge as protesters gather by the Bureau of Land Management's base camp, where cattle that were seized from rancher Cliven Bundy are being held, near Bunkerville, Nevada April 12, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

(Reuters) - A federal jury in Las Vegas on Tuesday returned verdicts of not guilty for four men accused of numerous charges for acting as gunmen in a 2014 standoff led by renegade rancher Cliven Bundy against federal authorities, a newspaper reported.

The jurors, after four days of deliberations, deadlocked on other charges against the four, the newspaper, The Arizona Republic, reported.

Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.

U.S. prosecutors said the four defendants - Scott Drexler, Ricky Lovelien, Eric Parker and Steven Stewart - committed crimes including conspiracy, assault on a federal officer, extortion and weapons law violations when they traveled to Nevada with firearms to participate in a plan to halt a cattle roundup.

The jury deadlocked on four charges against Parker and two charges against Drexler, the newspaper reported.

In the first trial, defense attorneys argued their clients were exercising constitutionally protected speech and gun rights. They also argued that the defendants feared for their safety and the safety of protesters when they brought weapons.

Defense attorneys for the four, angered by U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro’s pretrial ruling limiting evidence in the case, offered no closing arguments.

The uprising at Bundy’s ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada, 75 miles (120 km) northeast of Las Vegas, grew out of a dispute in which federal agents seized Bundy’s cattle over his refusal to pay fees required for grazing his livestock on government land.

The standoff became a flashpoint in long-simmering tensions over federal ownership of vast tracts of public lands in the West and a rallying point for right-wing militants who challenge the U.S. government’s authority in the region.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Leslie Adler

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