Published: Tue, July 10, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

President pardons ranchers in case that inspired 2016 occupation

President pardons ranchers in case that inspired 2016 occupation

The imprisonment of Dwight and Steven Hammond prompted the armed occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in OR in 2016, led by two sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. Steven Hammond, 49, has served roughly four. The father-son duo are cattle ranchers and were convicted in 2012 of committing arson on federal lands in Oregon.

"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. Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency".

Dwight and his son Steven Hammond were convicted of arson and faced a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, mandated by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump granted clemency to Dwight Lincoln Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven Hammond, two OR ranchers convicted of arson.

The second imprisonment caused a local backlash. Hammond was convicted of arson on federal lands.

In a statement Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called that decision "unjust".

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The pardons don't carry huge practical import; the Hammonds had already served most of their sentences.

The Malheur 7, as they came to be known, were later acquitted of the government's charges by a jury.

This is a very distinct and selective version of the "law and order" he campaigned on, but one that holds enormous appeal to the only people President Trump really cares about: his base.

Their imprisonment inspired a Bundy-led militia to undertake an armed occupation of an OR wildlife refuge to protest the federal government's restrictions on federal land use.

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.

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The federal pursuit of the Hammonds followed years of permit violations and unauthorized fires, and they never accepted responsibility, said Oregon's former U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall.

It added: "Dwight Hammond is now 76 years old and has served approximately three years in prison".

U.S. District Judge Michael R. Hogan said such a lengthy sentence "would not meet any idea I have of justice, would be a sentence which would shock the conscience to me".

The pardons are the latest in a growing list of clemency actions by Trump. The pair had also coughed up $400,000 to settle a civil suit with the feds.

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