Trump pardons ranchers in case that inspired 2016 occupation

Trump pardons ranchers in case that inspired 2016 occupation

Trump pardons ranchers in case that inspired 2016 occupation

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.

President Donald Trump pardoned two men on Tuesday who were involved in a dispute with federal authorities over federal land usage that sparked the takeover of a wildlife refuge 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", Trump continued.

President Donald Trump's pardon of two OR ranchers convicted of arson for starting grass fires is thought by some to signify a changed federal approach to industries reliant on public lands.

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

The Hammonds' crime of intentionally starting a fire on public land-which witnesses alleged was aimed at covering up the illegal slaughter of deer-carried a minimum prison sentence of five years, but a sympathetic judge decided in 2012 to hand the ranchers a far lighter sentence.

The Western Values Project, based in Montana, said the pardons would embolden "antipublic land zealots" and signal to Interior Department employees "who face serious threats from antigovernment extremists like the Hammonds that the administration does not have their backs".

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who represents the area that includes the Hammonds' ranch, cheered Trump's pardon as a win against federal overreach.

For decades, land rights has been a thorny issue in western USA states, where the federal government owns most of the land.

"Farm Bureau was shocked by the minimum five-year sentence the Hammonds faced", said American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. But the judge, citing their respect in the community, reduced their sentences: Dwight initially received a sentence of three months; his son, Steven, a year and a day.

Supporters of the Hammonds, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, were outraged at prosecutors' actions and occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, ostensibly over the Hammonds' case.

A member of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters walks to one of it's buildings, January 4, 2016, near Burns, Oregon.

The federal government's approach to the Hammonds reflects "prosecutorial misconduct" that's evident in other cases, said Ramona Morrison, daughter of deceased Nevada rancher and "Sagebrush Rebellion" icon Wayne Hage. Other accounts say 139 acres of federal land was burned.

The U.S. attorney for Oregon, Billy Williams, justified the Hammonds' mandatory sentences, saying they're "intended to be long enough to deter those like the Hammonds who disregard the law and place firefighters and others in jeopardy".

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