By Aaron Kesel
U.S. President Trump has issued a pardon to the father and son ranchers from Oregon whose imprisonment for setting fires on federal land sparked a takeover of a wildlife refuge lasting 40 days.
Trump signed an injunction granting clemency to 76-year-old Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven Hammond, 49, according to a White House press release. The two men were both convicted of arson on federal land in 2012 for fires that burned in 2001 and 2006.
The statement added: “Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.”
Both men have served time with Dwight serving approximately three years and Steven serving about four years
Federal Judge Michael Robert Hogan originally gave the Hammonds reduced sentences in 2012, arguing that the mandatory minimums were unjust. But the Obama administration appealed, and under federal Judge Ann Aiken in 2015 imposed the full five-year sentences to serve the mandatory minimum.
This resentencing decision is one of the catalysts that led to the 2016 armed protests lead by Ammon Bundy on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near the Hammond ranch in southeastern Oregon from Jan. 2nd to Feb. 11th, 2016.
“The Hammonds are multi-generation cattle ranchers in Oregon imprisoned in connection with a fire that leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land,” the White House said in a statement. “The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds’ responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges.”
In a statement Tuesday announcing the pardon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders emphasized several uncertainties in the case as well as the prison terms and fines the Hammonds had already paid.
“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 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. Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.”
“This was unjust,” Sanders said in her statement.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who represents Oregon, praised Trump’s pardon as a win against federal overreach.
“Today is a win for justice, and an acknowledgment of our unique way of life in the high desert, rural West,” he said in a statement. “As ranchers across eastern Oregon frequently tell me, the Hammonds didn’t deserve a five year sentence for using fire as a management tool, something the federal government does all the time.”
As of this month, Dwight Hammond has served two years and nine months in prison and 31 months of supervised release. His son Steven has served three years and four months in prison and two years of supervised release. They have also paid almost half a million dollars, $400,000 to the United States to settle a related civil suit.
Morgan Philpot, an attorney for the Hammonds, stated that his clients were released from a federal detention center south of Los Angeles according to Fox News.
In a statement, the Hammond family said they were “grateful to the president and all who worked to make this possible and to bring this about … We are very anxiously looking forward to seeing Dwight and Steven home.”
The Hammonds are the eighth and ninth people granted clemency under President Trump. Others include conservative activist Dinesh D’Souza and former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to name a few.
Conservation groups slammed the pardon and said it amounts to an endorsement of violent extremism.
“Pardoning the Hammonds sends a dangerous message to America’s park rangers, wildland firefighters, law enforcement officers, and public lands managers,” Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities said, adding that Trump “has once again sided with lawless extremists who believe that public land does not belong to all Americans.”
“The Hammonds are dangerous people with a history of arson, illegal grazing and threatening federal officials,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Trump’s pardon abandons human decency and will encourage more violence and extremism among his base.”
Meanwhile, the Libertarian Party has unanimously requested President Trump grant a full pardon to Ross Ulbricht, who is serving a life sentence with no parole possibility for his role in launching and operating the Silk Road website, which the government argues “facilitated illegal drug trading.” The party passed a resolution urging the pardon of Ulbricht at its annual convention on July 3rd after the Supreme Court denied an appeals claim.
“We need to send a clear message now, and in two years, and in two more years we need to keep sending this message that we have a political prisoner who is serving two life sentences plus 40 years for the crime of running a website, being a libertarian and being unapologetic about doing those two things,” an attendee commented prior to the vote on the resolution, according to a YouTube video of the party’s convention.
“If for some reason President Trump does not choose to accede to our resolution that we passed today, then I think that we just need to elect a libertarian president in 2020 to get this shit done,” Darryl Perry, chair of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire, said.
Trump has pardoned the Hammonds, will he also lift the burden off of the Ulbricht family? Time will tell … for now this is a huge win for federal land overreach and a victory for the people against the government.
Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post. Support us at Patreon. Follow us on Minds, Steemit, SoMee, BitChute, Facebook and Twitter. Ready for solutions? Subscribe to our premium newsletter Counter Markets.