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

Pauline Gross
July 11, 2018

Two imprisoned ranchers who were convicted of intentionally setting fires in 2012 on public land in OR will be freed after President Donald Trump pardoned them on Tuesday.

Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven Hammond were granted executive grants of clemency by Trump, according to a White House statement.

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, a well-known figure in the battle over public land, welcomed the pardons, saying the Hammonds were victims of federal overreach. "For more than twenty years, Hammond family members have been responsible for multiple fires in the Steens Mountain area".

The second imprisonment caused a local backlash.

Williams argued the Hammonds' sentences follow the law and are not excessive, considering the danger in which the Hammonds' actions placed the hunters and the firefighters.

However, that was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ordered that the Hammonds be resentenced "in compliance with the law".

Most of the protesters at the Malheur site were acquitted of charges the government brought against them.

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.

As for when the pair might be freed from federal prison, that event seems imminent: Larry Matasar, a Portland, Ore., attorney who represents the Hammonds, tells NPR that he spoke to the Office of the Pardon Attorney about sending the proper paperwork to the prison.

The White House in a statement on Tuesday called the order to return the two to prison "unjust".

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"Pardoning the Hammonds sends a unsafe message to America's park rangers, wildland firefighters, law enforcement officers, and public lands managers", Center for Western Priorities said in a statement.

The Hammonds have been locked up since January 4, 2016, after they were re-sentenced following their 2012 conviction for arson on public lands.

Bundy and his supporters were eventually arrested, majority 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.

Some conservation groups were dismayed at the cattle ranchers' pardon.

Dwight and Steven Hammond were both ultimately convicted of setting a fire in 2001 that consumed 139 acres of federal property, while the younger rancher was also found guilty of lighting a "back burn" that spread onto an acre of public land in 2006.

These are the sixth and seventh pardons President Trump has issued.

"Pardoning the Hammonds sends a risky message to America's park rangers, wildland firefighters, law enforcement officers, and public lands managers", Rokala said in a statement.

The Oregon Farm Bureau said in a statement "while nobody can restore what they've lost to this prosecutorial overreach and bureaucratic vendetta, we are happy that this terrible chapter will be coming to a close soon".

News media outlets in the state - including the Oregonian - have published editorials advocating for a presidential pardon, seeking clemency for the two men.

A White House statement released Tuesday announced the pardons for both Hammonds, stating they were "imprisoned in connection with a fire that leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land".

Other reports by GizPress

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