Trump Pardons Ranchers Whose Arson Case Sparked Refuge Occupation

Donald Trump

Modal Trigger Getty Images

"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".

President Trump on Tuesday granted clemency to OR ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr., and his son Steven - whose case spurred armed militants led by Ammon Bundy to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 41 days in 2016.

The standoff in support of the Hammonds was led by Ammon Bundy, the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a high-profile 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights.

President Donald Trump's pardon of two OR ranchers convicted of arson for starting grass fires is thought by some to signify a changed federal approach to industries reliant on public lands.

On June 9, the agricultural community rejoiced at the news that 76-year old Dwight Hammond and his son, 49-year old Steven Hammond, would be pardoned by President Donald Trump.

While numerous Hammonds' supporters didn't approve of the takeover, they saw the Obama administration's pursuit of longer prison sentences as vindictive. "I hope that Dwight and Steven will soon be able to continue their work on the Hammond Ranch". Prosecutors said in 2016 they set fires to cover up evidence of poaching.

Others said they committed serious crimes and anxious that the pardons might prompt other actions involving public lands.

Duquette was so confident something was afoot that he got a hotel room Tuesday in Long Beach, California near the Terminal Island federal prison where the Hammonds have been held, and where they walked out about 2 p.m. Tuesday, about six 1/2 hours after Trump pardoned them.

While the Hammonds were regarded by land-rights activists as heroes, and victims of the federal government, federal prosecutors painted sinister portraits of them at their trial. The relatively short sentences came despite mandatory minimum sentences of five years.

A day ago, ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond were prisoners at the minimum-security federal prison on Terminal Island in San Pedro, serving five-year sentences for arson. The elder Hammond said he was trying to fend off invasive species. Their conviction sparked armed right-wing militiamen, led by Ammon Bundy, to take over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in OR, provoking a 41-day armed standoff in 2016.

Local community members, as well as supporters of the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, planned to gather at the airport to welcome the two men home.

The federal pursuit of the Hammonds followed years of permit violations and unauthorized fires, and they never accepted responsibility, said Oregon's former U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall. "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". These folks were all being oppressed by The Man-and the Hammonds in particular were oppressed by Barack Obama-so pardoning them is a politically useful stunt.

Gov. Cuomo calls for special session on abortion rights
New housing minister to be appointed as Raab made Brexit Secretary