Published: Wed, July 11, 2018

Trump pardons ranchers whose case sparked Bundy takeover of OR refuge

Trump pardons ranchers whose case sparked Bundy takeover of OR refuge

President Donald Trump has pardoned two ranchers whose case sparked the armed occupation of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon.

"They now think they have a friend in the White House who does not value public lands", said Aaron Weiss, media director for the Center for Western Priorities, a nonprofit that advocates protecting public land.

U.S. District Judge Michael R. Hogan said such a lengthy sentence "would not meet any idea I have of justice, proportionality ... it would be a sentence which would shock the conscience to me". Prosecutors appealed, and the Hammonds were ordered to serve the full five-year terms.

Dwight Hammond is now 76 years old and has served approximately three years in prison.

But after the Hammonds were released a Barack Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney named Amanda Marshall appealed the release and the two men were subsequently forced to return to prison when an appeals court ruled Hogan could not reduce the sentences. The pair had also coughed up $400,000 to settle a civil suit with the feds.

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.

The announcement came as President Trump set out for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meetings in Brussels, Belgium.

"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", the White House said in a statement.


The Hammonds' case led to the armed 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The Hammonds had previously been accused of making death threats against federal officials and were arrested in 1994 after trying to stop federal workers from fencing off a canal at Malheur.

WND columnist Ilana Mercer commented in 2016 on "the sorry state of affairs", writing that "to look at rancher Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son, Steven, 46, is to see the salt of the earth, the best of America". In a statement after that ruling, the Department of Justice cited evidence from the first trial, in which "Jurors were told that Steven Hammond handed out "Strike Anywhere" matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to 'light up the whole country on fire'".

The brothers and five other defendants were acquitted in 2016 by a federal court jury in Portland on charges stemming from the takeover.

"The Hammonds are child abusers and anti-government zealots who endangered lives when they committed arson to cover up illegally slaughtering a herd of deer".

Prosecutors alleged in the indictment at the time that the Hammond family set fire to the rangeland after complaining the BLM was taking too long to complete required environmental studies before conducting controlled burn operations.

"This was unjust", Sanders said in her statement.

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