Trump pardons OR cattle ranchers in land dispute

12 July, 2018, 06:06 | Author: Carlos George
  • Justin Sullivan  Getty Images North America

Perhaps one of the greatest victims of this overreaching administration were OR ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond, who you may recall were convicted in 2012 of arson for burning 136 acres of Bureau of Land Management land that they held the grazing rights to.

President Trump signed full pardons on Tuesday for OR cattle ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr., pictured here in 2016, and his son Steven Hammond.

The new sentences became a cause celebre for those who oppose federal control of public lands, leading to the armed occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in OR for 41 days in 2016.

Dwight and Steven Hammond walked out of federal prison in California several hours after Trump issued the pardons, said the Portland Oregonian.

"Our family is grateful to the president and all who worked to make this possible", the statement read.

Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son Steven Hammond, 49, were convicted of setting a fire in 2001, and Steven Hammond was convicted of setting a second fire in 2006, OregonLive reported, adding that the incidents occurred on Harney County land where they had grazing rights for their cattle.

"We went up there to prevent the atrocity from happening to begin with, and if people would have listened to us, the Hammonds wouldn't have to have gone through this suffering", Bundy said in a telephone interview.

The Hammonds, meanwhile, were convicted of a "very serious crime" that shouldn't be brushed aside, he said. They engaged in an armed standoff with federal authorities, although the Hammonds turned themselves over to authorities to serve the additional time and did not heed the Bundys' call to resist.

"The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds' responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges", the statement said. Although prosecuted under a post-Oklahoma City federal anti-terrorism law that carried a minimum five-year sentence, sentencing Judge Michael Hogan exercised judicial discretion and refused to impose the mandated minimum.

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"I think the president recognized they're good and decent men and got a raw deal on the sentencing", said Nathan Jackson, a rancher and president of OCA.

At the time of the sentencing, even the judge had noted the Hammonds were respected in their community and that the five-year sentence would "shock the conscience" and be "grossly disproportionate to the severity" of their conduct. It turned deadly when police shot one of the occupiers.

The leaders of the Malheur standoff, including activists Ammon and Ryan Bundy, were cleared of federal charges for their role in the protest in October 2016.

"Trump's pardon abandons human decency to signal encouragement of violence and extremism among his base". Williams declined to comment on the pardons.

Sanders also took a jab at the Obama administration calling the government's appeal of the Hammonds' original sentences "overzealous" and "unjust".

Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven Hammond were granted executive grants of clemency by Trump, according to a White House statement.

Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Walden of OR said Trump's action is "a win for justice, and an acknowledgement of our unique way of life in the high desert, rural West".

Oregon Wild, which works to protect and restore Oregon wildlands, wildlife and waters, sees a darker impact from the pardon.

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