Trump pardons ranchers whose case sparked Bundy takeover of OR refuge

Justin Sullivan  Getty Images North America

Justin Sullivan Getty Images North America

The White House announced on Tuesday that President Donald Trump pardoned Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond, whose arson cases prompted a highly-televised standoff in 2016 at Bundy ranch in Oregon. But, in 2016, a federal judge ordered the pair back to prison to serve the full five years.

"The Hammonds are multi-generation cattle ranchers in OR imprisoned in connection with a fire that leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land".

The White House noted that Dwight Hammond, 76, had already served about three years behind bars and that his son Steven, 49, had served almost four years in prison.

But President Obama's Department of Justice appealed, and in 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the administration's favor.

"The previous administration, however, filed an overzealous appeal that resulted in the Hammonds being sentenced to five years in prison".

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

The second imprisonment caused a local backlash. They argued the Hammonds were victims of federal overreach.

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The pardons don't carry huge practical import; the Hammonds had already served most of their sentences.

Protesters who rallied to support the Hammonds included Ammon Bundy, who was part of the self-styled militia that broke into the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, beginning a 41-day standoff with the USA government over how it handles rangelands throughout the Western states.

She noted that Dwight Hammond is 76 and has served about three years in prison and that Steven Hammond is 49 and has served about four years. Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, a key protester according to The Chicago Tribune, was fatally shot on January 26 by Oregon State Police. As a result, the judge imposed significantly lesser sentences.

The pardons are the latest in a growing list of clemency actions by Trump.

"The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds' responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges", the White House said. The two paid $400,000 to the Bureau of Land Management to settle a related civil suit.

Saying that he and other attorneys involved in the case will try to expedite the Hammonds' return to society, Matasar stated, "I am very happy for the entire Hammond family, who I have known and respected for 25 years".

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