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OR cattle ranchers released from prison after presidential pardon

11 July 2018

In a move that sends a "very friendly message to some very risky people", President Donald Trump on Tuesday granted full pardons to Dwight and Stephen Hammond, the father-son team of OR ranchers whose 2012 conviction for arson inspired the right-wing Bundy militia's armed takeover and month-long occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016.

"The Hammonds were serial arsonists who stole from United States taxpayers for years", former federal prosecutor Dwight Holton told KGW when he heard the news.

The two men faced arson charges after setting fire to land they had rights to for cattle grazing.

But President Obama's Department of Justice appealed, and in 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the administration's favor. When first convicted, Dwight Hammond was sentenced to serve three months and Steven Hammond a year and a day - far less than the five-year mandatory minimum.

"Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency", the White House said.

The second imprisonment caused a local backlash.

The Hammonds had previously been accused of making death threats against federal officials and were arrested in 1994 after trying to stop federal workers from fencing off a canal at Malheur.

The pardons don't carry huge practical import; the Hammonds had already served most of their sentences.

"The Hammonds are child abusers and anti-government zealots who endangered lives when they committed arson to cover up illegally slaughtering a herd of deer".

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These are the sixth and seventh pardons President Trump has issued.

Dwight Hammond set a prescribed burn on about 300 acres of his own land that then traveled onto Bureau of Land Management property and burned an additional 139 acres, his lawyer wrote.

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.

The return to prison of Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond helped spark the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016. Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, a key protester according to The Chicago Tribune, was fatally shot on January 26 by Oregon State Police.

A statement from the Hammond family thanked the community for the support, and said they hoped the pardon would signal the need for a more measured and just approach by federal agents, officers and prosecutors.

The Hammond pardons have garnered attention from conservation groups calling Trump's action "dangerous".

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.

News media outlets in the state - including the Oregonian - have published editorials advocating for a presidential pardon, seeking clemency for the two men. Her office appealed the lighter sentences because she said the trial judge didn't have discretion to depart from a mandatory minimum sentence. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.

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OR cattle ranchers released from prison after presidential pardon