LAS VEGAS — A participant in the 2014 armed standoff between federal agents and supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy was sentenced to 68 years in prison Wednesday despite pleas from his lawyer for leniency related to his deteriorating health.
Gregory Burleson, 53, sat in a wheelchair while attorney Terrence Jackson stood next to him in federal court and explained how his client’s blindness and age would make him vulnerable in prison. He also said Burleson’s age should be considered a factor in a reduced sentence.
Jackson said Burleson was an alcoholic and that his participation in the standoff was not motivated by deeply held beliefs, but simply the act of a man seeking status and who was manipulated by the Bundy family to aid in their fight with the federal government over grazing rights.
Federal officials say Bundy has illegally grazed his cattle on federal land for years. When agents rounded up some of his cattle, Burleson and others, some of them armed, came to his defense at his ranch near Bunkerville, Nev. Burleson traveled from Arizona to participate in the standoff.
“He became mesmerized by his fame,” Jackson said.
The confrontation became a rallying point for those who pointed to the action as federal overreach, and the trial of Burleson and five others earlier this year underwent intense scrutiny as a precursor to Bundy’s trial scheduled for later this year.
However, the government suffered a blow in April when only Burleson and Todd Engel were found guilty of crimes including assaulting a federal officer, obstruction of justice and interstate travel to aid extortion while the other counts against the remaining defendants resulted in a hung jury.
The government is retrying the cases against Eric Parker, O. Scott Drexler, Richard Lovelien and Steven Stewart.
Jackson said the Burleson was being subjected to “essentially a life sentence.” Burleson’s mother appeared shaken as she spoke with Jackson after the hearing. Jackson said, however, that his client was “resigned” to his fate — even though the attorney said he would appeal the decision.
“He knew it was coming,” Jackson said.
Engel is scheduled to be sentenced in September.
-David Montero, ©2017 Los Angeles Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.