Trump pardons ranchers in case that inspired 2016 occupation

President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday

Trump pardons Oregon ranchers at center of 40-day standoff | TheHill

The elder Hammond, 76, and son Steven Hammond, 49, were convicted in 2012 of arson on Harney County land where they had grazing rights for their cattle.

Their imprisonment sparked armed activists to take over a federal wildlife refuge in protest of their treatment and government land-use regulations, according to The Guardian.

While numerous Hammonds' supporters didn't approve of the takeover, they saw the Obama administration's pursuit of longer prison sentences as vindictive.

Earlier in the day, Steven Hammond and his father Dwight stepped from a private jet and into the arms of family members at a municipal airport outside the huigh desert community of Burns. The government appealed the sentence, and they were later given the maximum terms of five years in prison.

Witnesses testified that a 2001 arson fire occurred shortly after Steven Hammond and his hunting party illegally slaughtered deer on federal Bureau of Land Management property.

The Western Values Project, based in Montana, said the pardons would embolden "antipublic land zealots" and signal to Interior Department employees "who face serious threats from antigovernment extremists like the Hammonds that the administration does not have their backs". But they send a message that Trump also delivered with his previous pardon of lawless Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio: which is that when a certain kind of (white) frontier-justice renegade decides to defy the federal government, it's the offender, not the government, who gets the benefit of the doubt.

Originally, federal prosecutors charged the Hammonds in 2010 with burning more than 45,000 acres of federal land near their ranch in Diamond, Ore., in blazes dating back to the 1980s.

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Three years later, prosecutors were granted an appeal which increased the Hammonds time behind bars to that a minimum of five years. In both those years, the USA government said the Hammonds set fires that spread onto land managed by the [Bureau of Land Management]. Following their re-sentencing, their supporters began an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon.

One occupier was shot dead by Oregon State Police.

Saying that he and other attorneys involved in the case will try to expedite the Hammonds' return to society, Matasar stated, "I am very happy for the entire Hammond family, who I have known and respected for 25 years".

He led a militia that broke into the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

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".

"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.

Outside the Hammond home on Court Avenue in downtown Burns, an American flag was flying by the front door and a huge banner sat on the front lawn that read, "Thank you President Trump You Freed the Hammonds".

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