Published: Tue, July 10, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Trump Pardons Oregon Ranchers Who Inspired Bundy Militia Occupation of Wildlife Refuge

Trump Pardons Oregon Ranchers Who Inspired Bundy Militia Occupation of Wildlife Refuge

President Donald Trump on Tuesday pardoned two cattle ranchers convicted of arson in a fight against the federal government that later sparked the occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon.

The father and son were convicted in 2012 of intentionally and maliciously setting fires on public lands. Most notably, members of another anti-government family, the Bundys, cited the Hammonds as their inspiration for facing down what they called an oppressive government when they occupied a national wildlife refuge in OR, setting up a weeks-long standoff that became front-page news in 2016. However, that was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ordered that the Hammonds be resentenced "in compliance with the law". The organizers wanted to protest federal land ownership. Finicum was shot and killed by police during a January 26 traffic stop.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that evidence against the Hammonds was "conflicting" and noted the trial judge's opposition to imposing the required mandatory minimum sentence. "Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency".

The pardons are the latest in a growing list of clemency actions by Trump, who has been using his pardon power with increasingly frequency in recent months.

He has repeatedly referenced emotional video of Johnson being freed from prison and running into her family members' arms, and has said he's considering thousands more cases - both famous and not.

The pardons come as some federal employees in the rural West are wary of what they say is a high likelihood that more standoffs could develop, NPR's Kirk Siegler reports, citing soil scientists, cattle range managers, and the people who staff recreation sites. 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.

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.

The White House said Dwight Hammond, 76, has served about three years in prison. The federal sentencing of Dwight and Steven Hammond for arson sparked the anti-government occupation.

They have also paid $400,000 to the U.S.to settle a related civil suit.

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