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Levin writes: "Donald Trump on Tuesday issued full pardons to two Oregon ranchers whose imprisonment prompted a militia standoff with the federal government."

Dwight Hammond Jr, pictured above, and his son, Steven, were imprisoned after prosecutors alleged they were responsible for multiple fires on public lands. (photo: Les Zaitz/AP)
Dwight Hammond Jr, pictured above, and his son, Steven, were imprisoned after prosecutors alleged they were responsible for multiple fires on public lands. (photo: Les Zaitz/AP)

Trump Pardons Oregon Ranchers Whose Case Sparked 2016 Militia Standoff

By Sam Levin, Guardian UK

10 July 18

Dwight and Steven Hammond convicted of arson, which led ranchers and militia groups to occupy federal wildlife refuge in protest

onald Trump on Tuesday issued full pardons to two Oregon ranchers whose imprisonment prompted a militia standoff with the federal government.

Dwight Hammond Jr and his son Steven Hammond were convicted in 2012 on charges of arson, after federal prosecutors alleged they were responsible for multiple fires on public lands.

The government said the ranchers were covering up evidence of hunting violations and endangered people with the fires. The Hammond family and their supporters insisted they started a “prescribed fire” to burn off invasive species and another to protect their feed and home from a growing fire. The case became a symbol to some conservatives of government overreach in rural parts of the American west.

“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.

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

Dwight Hammond, 76, has served three years in prison. Steven Hammond, 49, has served roughly four.

In 2016, the imprisonment of the men from Harney county led ranchers and militia groups from across the US to travel to eastern Oregon to take over a federal wildlife refuge in protest, sparking a protracted standoff during which one occupier was killed.

Brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, from a well-known Nevada ranching family, helped lead the occupation and were later found not guilty of federal crimes.

The Hammonds’ case was controversial in part because the men were convicted under an antiterrorism act which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. In 2012, a US district judge said the sentence was “grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses”. Dwight served a three-month sentence while his son spent a year in jail.

The US Department of Justice, however, challenged the lighter sentencing and the judge’s decision to ignore the mandatory minimum. In 2015, the Hammonds were resentenced and forced to return to prison for the five-year terms.

In a 2016 interview with the Guardian at her home in Burns, as the takeover of the Malheur wildlife national refuge was escalating, Susie Hammond, Dwight’s wife and Steven’s mother, discussed the toll on her family.

“We didn’t think it could happen,” she said. “We thought we lived in America where you have one trial and you have one sentencing. They just keep playing political, legal mind games with people and people’s lives.”

Trump has issued a series of high-profile pardons since taking office, including for Dinesh D’Souza, a far-right provocateur who pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, and Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff convicted of contempt of court after ignoring a judge’s order to stop racially profiling Latinos.

The pardons of the Hammonds mark a stunning reversal of the justice department’s approach to a major arson case and is another victory for a movement sparked by the Bundy family.

Rancher Cliven Bundy had led a standoff with US authorities in 2014 after refusing to pay government grazing fees. Efforts to prosecute him and his sons fell apart earlier this year.

Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, an environmental group, slammed Trump’s pardons, saying in a statement that the decision “sends a dangerous message to America’s park rangers, wildland firefighters, law enforcement officers and public lands managers”.

Trump, she said, “once again sided with lawless extremists who believe that public land does not belong to all Americans”.

Ranchers in Harney county celebrated the decision.

“My initial reaction is elation,” Jeff Maupin, a longtime family friend of the Hammonds, told the Guardian. “I just can’t believe that it’s happened. Finally, we got some real justice, and it’s very, very emotional for me.”

Maupin, a 49-year-old rancher who went to school with Steven Hammond, said prosecutors had been overly aggressive in charging the men under a terrorism law and that people across the political spectrum should be outraged by the decision to send them back to prison after they served time.

“We need criminal justice reform all over, not just with the Hammonds,” he said. “We need prison reform.” your social media marketing partner


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+8 # chrisconno 2018-07-10 22:50
How about justice reform for the minorities we mass prosecute and incarcerate. These guys just want everything for nothing. Cliven Bundy grazed federal land for nothing for 20 years. This means that he likely contributed to over grazing that can be extremely detrimental to soils. Why should ranchers get to use and abuse the land that belongs to all of us? And why isn't there justice for minorities?
-7 # Wind in His Hair 2018-07-11 04:09
Great news, all Americans should rejoice.
+6 # Kootenay Coyote 2018-07-11 08:06
Treason & Arson pardoned unconditionally : so much for Trump’s ‘respect for law’, when convicted violent men are freed with approval. Another dogwhistle to the Fascist base, another nail in American Democracy’s coffin.
+1 # chapdrum 2018-07-11 18:09
The ranchers are anti-Federal government and, by a cute coincidence, so is Don T.

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