BURNS, Ore. (NBCNC/KOBI) – President Trump is pardoning two cattle ranchers convicted of arson in a case that triggered the armed occupation of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon.
Dwight Hammond, Jr. and his son, Steven Hammond, were convicted in 2012 of intentionally and maliciously setting fires on public lands. While the crime carried a minimum sentence of five years, a sympathetic judge reduced the sentences for both.
In 2016, prosecutors won an appeal and the Hammonds were re-sentenced to the minimum five years.
That re-sentencing sparked outrage from the Hammonds’ supporters who then occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon for nearly six weeks in protest.
In granting their pardons, President Trump said the Hammonds are devoted family men and have widespread support from their neighbors.
Representative Greg Walden (R-Or.) applauded the pardon, saying in part, “Today is a win for justice, and an acknowledgment of our unique way of life in the high desert, rural West. I applaud President Trump for thoroughly reviewing the facts of this case, rightly determining the Hammonds were treated unfairly, and taking action to correct this injustice.
“For far too long, Dwight and Steven Hammond have been serving a mandatory minimum sentence that was established for terrorists. This is something that would ‘shock the conscience,’ according to Federal Judge Michael Hogan, who presided over the case and used his discretion in sentencing which later was reversed. As ranchers across eastern Oregon frequently tell me, the Hammonds didn’t deserve a five-year sentence for using fire as a management tool, something the federal government does all the time.”
The Oregon Farm Bureau has also been supportive of the Hammonds’ plight, gathering over 25,000 online signatures in support of clemency. OFB President Barry Bushue said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with Steven and Dwight as they get back to the people and the land they love. We will continue to do whatever we can to ensure that this injustice is never repeated.”
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