Gregory Burleson of Arizona became the first of 17 defendants to be sentenced to prison for his role in the 2014 standoff that prevented federal officers from seizing land from cattle rancher Cliven Bundy. He was sentenced to 68 years in prison.
Burleson, 53, was part of one of the militia groups that showed up to a protest the Bureau of Land Management's decision to seize Bundy's cattle from public lands after years of him not paying federal grazing fees.
Bundy's case was taken up by a libertarian sect of the conservative party commonly perceived as being extremist, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The group values individual liberties and strongly supports the Second Amendment.
In a show of solidarity, dozens of protesters gathered in Bunkerville, Nevada, on April 12, 2014, alongside members of the Bundy family, creating a physical barrier that made it hard for BLM agents to round up Bundy's cattle.
Like many others at the protest, Burleson was armed.
Following the protest, Burleson posted several anti-government messages on Facebook, Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.
He told an undercover FBI agent disguised as a documentary filmmaker that he was "hell bent on killing federal agents that had turned their back on 'we the people.'"
Burleson told U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro that he had an addiction to alcohol and had been intoxicated at the time.
"I went down there with the intention to see what was going on," he said during his July 26 hearing in Las Vegas. "I did not go down there with the intention of assaulting or killing anyone."
He told Navarro he was ashamed of the "crazy things" he had said, taking it as an indication that he should refrain from drinking.
No shots were fired at the protest, though the officers present reported the incident scarred them psychologically. One officer reported having to dig a foxhole to sleep outside because he feared the protesters would show up at his hotel room.
Navarro spoke of the lasting psychological effects on the officers before giving her sentence, saying "in some ways a physical injury is better than a mental injury because it scabs, it heals."
"You don’t just go to the tax office and threaten them to not collect taxes," Navarro said, comparing the protesters to "playground bullies."
The jury found Burleson guilty on eight charges, including crossing state lines for extortion, obstruction of justice, threatening a federal officer and carrying a weapon as part of a violent crime, KLAS reports.
Navarro reduced Burleson's sentence from the 87 years requested by the prosecution to 68 years, citing his intoxication at the time and for the health issues he's developed since the standoff.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, he is blind, wheelchair-bound and occasionally has seizures. The sentence is still longer than the mandatory minimum of 57 years requested by the defense.
In addition to serving his prison sentence, Burleson has been demanded to pay $1.5 million in restitution to the government for the BLM's failed operation.
Burleson was tried with six others whom prosecutors described as Bundy's "gunmen and followers," according to Reuters.
Verdicts were not reached for four of the individuals, and they will be retried, reports KLAS. Todd Engel from Idaho was found guilty and will be sentenced on Sept. 28.