Trump pardons ranchers in case that inspired 2016 occupation

10 July, 2018, 21:57 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Justin Sullivan  Getty Images North America

In a move that sends a "very friendly message to some very unsafe people", President Donald Trump on Tuesday granted full pardons to Dwight and Stephen Hammond, the father-son team of OR ranchers whose 2012 conviction for arson inspired the right-wing Bundy militia's armed takeover and month-long occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016.

She noted that Dwight Hammond is 76 and has served about three years in prison and that Steven Hammond is 49 and has served about four years. They had set a series of fires on their ranch that spread to federal land.

The decision sparked a protest from Ammon Bundy and dozens of others, who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near the Hammond ranch in southeastern OR from January 2 to February 11, 2016, complaining the Hammonds were victims of federal overreach. The takeover was the latest flare-up in a decades-old conflict over federal control of millions of acres of public land in the Western United States.

The Hammonds distanced themselves from the occupiers and didn't endorse the action. The challenge resulted in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sentencing them back to prison to complete five-year sentences, until Trump used his pardon power.

The Hammonds said they started a fire on their property in 2001 to protect it from wildfires and reduce the growth of invasive plants, but that the fire got out of hand, CNN affiliate KTBZ-TV reported.

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"The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community, and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement, and farmers and ranchers across the West", Sanders said.

"At the Hammonds" original sentencing, the judge noted that they are respected in the community and that imposing the mandatory minimum, 5-year prison sentence would "shock the conscience" and be "grossly disproportionate to the severity of their conduct", the statement reads. Her office appealed the lighter sentences because she said the trial judge didn't have discretion to depart from a mandatory minimum sentence. The federal sentencing of Dwight and Steven Hammond for arson sparked the anti-government occupation.

The occupation resulted in the death of one man, LaVoy Fincicum, who was shot and killed by Oregon State Police troopers when he drove his truck at a roadblock while trying to escape the refuge.

Most of the protesters at the Malheur site were acquitted of charges the government brought against them. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.

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