Saturday, 21 July, 2018


Who Are Dwight and Steven Hammond? Donald Trump Pardons Father and Son

Trump pardons Oregon ranchers at center of 40-day standoff Getty Images
Bennie Garza | 11 July, 2018, 03:47

President Trump signed full pardons on Tuesday for OR cattle ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and son Steven Hammond, whose long-running dispute with the federal government ended with prison sentences for arson - and later inspired the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation.

Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Walden of OR, who lobbied the White House for the pardon of the Hammonds, said Trump's decision was "a win for justice, and an acknowledgement of our unique way of life in the high desert, rural West".

In announcing the pardons White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders dubbed the appeal from prosecutors "overzealous", calling the sentencing "unjust". The elder Hammond was initially sentenced to three months in prison, while his son was ordered to a year and one day behind bars. As a result, the judge imposed significantly lesser sentences.

The government won an appeal over the Hammonds' sentences in 2015, and the two men were resentenced to serve out the remaining years of a five-year minimum.

It added: "Dwight Hammond is now 76 years old and has served approximately three years in prison".

In 2012, Dwight Hammond and his son Steven Hammond were convicted of committing arson on federal land on two separate occasions. They have also paid $400,000 to the United States to settle a related civil suit. They were convicted by an OR jury in 2012, but the judge who oversaw their case agreed with the Hammonds that the mandatory five-year sentences for arson on federal land was overly punitive, and the two served short sentences instead.

The announcement came as President Trump set out for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meetings in Brussels, Belgium. 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. The arson crime carried a minimum prison sentence of five years, but a sympathetic federal judge, on his last day before retirement, decided the penalty was too stiff and gave the father and son much lighter prison terms.

The decision sparked a protest four years later by Ammon Bundy and others, who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Ore., for 40 days in January and February 2016.

Bundy and his supporters were eventually arrested, majority during a confrontation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and state police on a snow-covered roadside where a spokesman for the group, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, was shot dead.

Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the environmental group Center for Western Priorities, argued in a statement that by pardoning the Hammonds, Trump has "sided with lawless extremists who believe that public land does not belong to all Americans".

The federal government's approach to the Hammonds reflects "prosecutorial misconduct" that's evident in other cases, said Ramona Morrison, daughter of deceased Nevada rancher and "Sagebrush Rebellion" icon Wayne Hage.

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