Trump pardons OR ranchers at center of 40-day standoff

Frederick Owens
July 11, 2018

President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed full pardons for two OR ranchers serving federal prison time for setting fire to public land.

In an expected move on Monday, the president announced that Dwight and Steven Hammond would receive full pardons for the arson on federal lands, which encouraged Ammon and Ryan Bundy to instigate the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

"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, '" the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement in 2015.

In 2012, the Hammonds were prosecuted for setting fires in 2001 and 2006 that destroyed portions of federal land to which they had leased grazing rights, and endangered people's lives.

Dwight Hammond is now 76 years old and has served approximately three years in prison.

The second imprisonment caused a local backlash.

The Hammonds distanced themselves from the actions of the Malheur 7.

The government said the ranchers were covering up evidence of hunting violations.

This is a very distinct and selective version of the "law and order" he campaigned on, but one that holds enormous appeal to the only people President Trump really cares about: his base.

Ammon Bundy, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, speaks with reporters during a news conference at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, January 4, 2016, near Burns, Ore.

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The White House in a statement on Tuesday called the order to return the two to prison "unjust".

The occupation resulted in the death of one man, LaVoy Fincicum, who was shot and killed by Oregon State Police troopers when he drove his truck at a roadblock while trying to escape the refuge.

Some conservation groups were dismayed at the pardon.

The two men were initially sentenced to less than the legal minimum five-year prison sentence by a judge who thought the minimum too harsh and later released the two, Dwight Hammond after three months and Steven Hammond after a year.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who represents the area that includes the Hammonds' ranch, cheered Trump's pardon as a win against federal overreach.

"Pardoning the Hammonds sends a risky message to America's park rangers, wildland firefighters, law enforcement officers, and public lands managers".

He has repeatedly referenced emotional video of Johnson being freed from prison and running into her family members' arms, and has said he's considering thousands more cases - both famous and not.

He has said he's considering thousands of other cases -famous and not.

The White House statement said that at "the Hammonds" original sentencing, the judge noted that they are respected in the community and that imposing the mandatory minimum, 5-year prison sentence would "shock the conscience" and be "grossly disproportionate to the severity' of their conduct".

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