Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Trump pardons OR ranchers whose case sparked 2016 militia standoff

Trump pardons OR ranchers whose case sparked 2016 militia standoff

A full pardon grants broader absolution, which undercuts the dangerousness of setting fires and indicates that public land can be burned without effect, Weiss said.

President Trump on Tuesday granted clemency to OR ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr., and his son Steven - whose case spurred armed militants led by Ammon Bundy to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 41 days in 2016.

Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Walden of OR, who lobbied the White House for the pardon of the Hammonds, said Trump's decision was "a win for justice, and an acknowledgement of our unique way of life in the high desert, rural West". It was unclear when they would be released. But the Obama administration demanded they go back into court "where they were sentenced to further time in prison under an anti-terrorism law, even though there was no evidence presented that the ranchers had planned or engaged in terrorism in any way".

But after prosecutors won an appeal, the Hammonds were resentenced to serve the mandatory minimum, the AP said, which sparked a protest from Ammon Bundy and many others - as well as an occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near the Hammond ranch in southeastern OR from January 2 to February 11, 2016.

One protester was killed when officers ambushed the protesters while they were traveling to a meeting.

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. Prosecutors later successfully appealed the lenient sentences, and the Hammonds were resentenced in 2015 to serve full five-year prison terms.

Dwight Hammond has served approximately three years in prison, and his son Steven has served four years, according to the White House.

The president granted clemency for Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son Steven, 49, who were convicted of arson charges in 2012 and imprisoned. A judge, however, initially gave Dwight Hammond three months and his son Steven Hammond a year and a day behind bars.

"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.

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.

Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the environmental group Center for Western Priorities, argued in a statement that by pardoning the Hammonds, Trump has "sided with lawless extremists who believe that public land does not belong to all Americans".

Bundy and his supporters were eventually arrested, a lot of them during a confrontation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and state police on a snow-covered roadside where a spokesman for the group, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, was shot dead.

The FBI agent was accused of firing at the protesters then picking up shell casings to hide that fact and lying to investigators. Bundy was also arrested in a different vehicle that peacefully surrendered to police.

"Finally, an elected official did something", Bundy said.

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