Jul 10, 2018 - Politics & Policy

Trump pardons 2 Oregon ranchers convicted of arson

A sign that reads "*Stand with the Hammonds"

A sign in Burns, Oregon, in 2016. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President Trump has granted pardons to two Oregon cattle ranchers — Dwight Lincoln Hammond, Jr., 76, and his son Steven Hammond, 49 — after they were imprisoned for setting fire to federal land, the White House said on Tuesday.

The big picture: These are the latest pardons in Trump's clemency spree, which has seen high-profile interventions from celebrities like Kim Kardashian West.

What happened, per the L.A. Times: The Hammonds were "the unwitting inspiration for a self-proclaimed militia" in Oregon at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which said "they will stand there until citizens like the Hammonds can manage their own land and die outside of prison."

  • The Hammonds argued that the two fires they set in 2001 and 2006 were "to ward off invasive plant species and protect their property from a wildfire."
  • Steven Hammond said he checked in with emergency dispatchers before setting the earlier fire to ensure there was no burn ban in effect, but federal prosecutors said he violated a ban.
  • The two served their individual time — one year for Steven and three months for his father — but the Obama administration "appealed the sentences, arguing that they did not meet the legally required minimum of five years."
  • The Bureau of Land Management, in return for the men's convictions, didn't renew the Hammonds' grazing permits.

What the White House said:

"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 evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds’ responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges. 
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.  As a result, the judge imposed significantly lesser sentences.  The previous administration, however, filed an overzealous appeal that resulted in the Hammonds being sentenced to five years in prison.  This was unjust.
Dwight Hammond is now 76 years old and has served approximately three years in prison.  Steven Hammond is 49 and has served approximately four years in prison.  They have also paid $400,000 to the United States to settle a related civil suit.  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."
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