(Reuters) – One of two men convicted in the first of several trials stemming from a 2014 standoff led by renegade rancher Cliven Bundy against federal authorities in Nevada was sentenced on Wednesday to 68 years in prison for his role in the armed confrontation.
Gregory Burleson, 53, of Phoenix, was found guilty in April of eight felony counts, including charges of threatening and assaulting federal officers, obstruction of justice, interstate travel in aid of extortion and firearms offenses related to a crime of violence.
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.
Burleson is the first of 17 people to be tried and sent to prison on government charges in the Bundy revolt. A co-defendant convicted by the same jury faces sentencing in September.
Four others for whom the case ended in a mistrial in April are being retried in Nevada, and two other groups of defendants, including Bundy and his sons, are scheduled to go on trial later this year and next.
Two of Bundy’s sons and four followers were acquitted of conspiracy charges in a separate trial last October stemming from their armed takeover of a federal wildlife center in Oregon in early 2016.
Burleson was sentenced days before various militia groups and their supporters plan to rally near Colorado Springs, Colorado, for a weekend “national field training exercise” billed as the largest such gathering ever in the United States.
Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Grant McCool