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Trump pardons OR ranchers whose case sparked 2016 militia standoff

Trump pardons OR ranchers whose case sparked 2016 militia standoff

OR ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond, convicted in 2012 of intentionally setting fires on public lands, were pardoned today by President Donald Trump. Most notably, members of another anti-government family, the Bundys, cited the Hammonds as their inspiration for facing down what they called an oppressive government when they occupied a national wildlife refuge in OR, setting up a weeks-long standoff that became front-page news in 2016.

Some fear the pardons could encourage others to take over land controlled by the government.

Yet Steven Grasty, a former Harney County commissioner, credited Walden and organizations, such as the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, not the refuge occupiers led by Ammon Bundy, for achieving the Hammonds' freedom.

I don't know or care whether Dwight and Steven Hammond were unfairly sentenced.

The two OR ranchers were imprisoned in 2012 for arson, in a fire that encroached on Federal lands, and the incident is commonly viewed as a precursor to the Bundy family's infamous stands against the government.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of the group Defenders of Wildlife, countered that the Hammonds were convicted of arson, a serious crime.

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

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The Hammond family, well-known in eastern OR, had been embroiled for years in a legal dispute over several fires that damaged federal property. "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.' One witness testified that he barely escaped the eight to ten foot high flames caused by the arson".

The dozens of armed people who occupied the refuge near the Hammond ranch for 41 days said the Hammonds were victims of federal overreach.

The Hammonds said they started a fire on their property in 2001 to protect it from wildfires and reduce the growth of invasive plants, but that the fire got out of hand, CNN affiliate KTVZ reported.

They were found guilty by a jury and faced mandatory sentences of five years. Although prosecuted under a post-Oklahoma City federal anti-terrorism law that carried a minimum five-year sentence, sentencing Judge Michael Hogan exercised judicial discretion and refused to impose the mandated minimum.

Hogan sentenced Dwight Hammond to three months in prison and Steven Hammond to a year and one day.

While numerous Hammonds' supporters didn't approve of the takeover, they saw the Obama administration's pursuit of longer prison sentences as vindictive. Finicum was shot and killed by police during a January 26 traffic stop.

The U.S. attorney for Oregon, Billy Williams, justified the mandatory sentences, saying they're "intended to be long enough to deter those like the Hammonds who disregard the law and place firefighters and others in jeopardy".


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