Trump Pardons Ranchers Dwight And Steven Hammond Over 2012 Arson Conviction

Justin Sullivan  Getty Images North America

Justin Sullivan Getty Images North America

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. They had set a series of fires on their ranch that spread to federal land. "The 2001 blaze burned 139 acres of public land, according to court documents; the 2006 fire - for which only Steven was convicted - burned an additional acre of public land".

In his pardon of the Hammonds, the president noted that jurors dropped "most" of the original charges against them, even as they found them guilty of two arson charges.

Bundy's militia, which included people from as far away as Arizona and MI, seized the headquarters of refuge as part of a long-running dispute over federal control of public lands in western US.

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. One of the occupiers, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, was shot dead by Oregon State Police during the takeover.

Members of an armed anti-government militia monitor the entrance to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters near Burns, Oregon, on January 5, 2016. However, in October 2015, a federal appeals court ordered them to be resentenced to the mandatory minimum.


In a statement deriding the former administration's handling of the case, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited how a judge ruled that the Hammond's faced a disproportionate sentence given their crimes.

In its statement announcing the pardon, the White House said, "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". They were convicted by an OR jury in 2012, but the judge who oversaw their case agreed with the Hammonds that the mandatory five-year sentences for arson on federal land was overly punitive, and the two served short sentences instead.

"Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these grants of executive clemency".

Dwight has so far served about three years in prison and Steven has served about four years.

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.

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