Hammonds released from prison after Trump's pardon

Hammonds released from prison after Trump's pardon

President Trump signed full pardons on Tuesday for OR cattle ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and son Steven Hammond, whose long-running dispute with the federal government ended with prison sentences for arson - and later inspired the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation.

Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted in 2012 after a jury found them guilty of intentionally and maliciously setting fires on public lands.

The pardons will hopefully make it clear that federal managers are not free to put ranchers out of business and take their land, said Dave Duquette, national strategic planner for Protect the Harvest, an agricultural and hunting nonprofit. "Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency".

The White House noted Dwight Hammond is now 76 years old and has served approximately three years in prison. He also wanted an easier sentence for Dwight and Steven Hammond, who had both previously rejected his assistance.

"I am not going to apply the mandatory minimum ... because, to me, to do so under the 8th Amendment would result in a sentence which is grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses here", explained trial Judge Michael Hogan. The two were initially sentenced to less than the legal minimum five-year prison sentence for their crimes, but a federal judge in 2016 ordered the pair returned to serve the full five years, after the father had spent three years in prison and the son four.

The White House's statement added that the "previous administration ... filed an overzealous appeal that resulted in the Hammonds being sentenced to five years in prison".


Their case prompted a 40-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 by protesters objecting to federal land ownership.

Their convictions have drawn sharp rebukes from the local community amid allegations that the family was aggressively prosecuted using anti-terrorism statutes because they were outspoken about public land use in rural Oregon.

In 2011 the federal government charged the two OR ranchers with arson and destruction of federal property for having done nothing more than utilize the same fire-management tools that the government routinely employs.

They have also paid $400,000 to the U.S.to settle a related civil suit.

"If the Hammonds are jailed for unintentionally losing control of a backfire, so should BLM agents, whose gross mismanagement causes death and destruction every summer", she said.

On Jan. 2, 2016, militants seized the headquarters of the wildlife refuge in Harney County to protest the Hammonds' prosecution and sentencing. Another key occupier, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, was fatally shot that day by Oregon State Police.

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