Trump pardons ranchers in case that inspired 2016 occupation

Trump pardons ranchers in case that inspired 2016 occupation

The father and son ranchers, whose re-arrest and imprisonment on arson charges after they'd served their sentences sparked the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, were pardoned Tuesday by President Donald Trump.

Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son Steven, 49, were convicted in 2012 and sent to prison on arson charges.

Our dumpster fire of a president has pardoned two OR arsonists who also threatened to kill federal officials, abused their nephew and illegally ran cattle on a national wildlife refuge.

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.

"Pardoning the Hammonds sends a unsafe message to America's park rangers, wildland firefighters, law enforcement officers, and public lands managers", Center for Western Priorities said in a statement.

Jennifer Rokala, the executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, called the Hammonds "lawless extremists".

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".

"Whatever prompted President Trump to pardon them, we hope that it is not seen as an encouragement to those who might use violence to seize federal property and threaten federal employees in the West", Clark said.

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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.

Prosecutors won an appeal and the Hammonds were re-sentenced to serve the mandatory minimum.

"If the Hammonds are jailed for unintentionally losing control of a backfire, so should BLM agents, whose gross mismanagement causes death and destruction every summer", she said.

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.

"The previous administration, however, filed an overzealous appeal that resulted in the Hammonds being sentenced to five years in prison".

In a statement on Tuesday, the White House said the decision was "unjust" and that the fire had burned only "a small portion" of public land.

"I am not going to apply the mandatory minimum ... because, to me, to do so under the 8th Amendment would result in a sentence which is grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses here", explained trial Judge Michael Hogan.

Trump came to a similar conclusion, with the White House noting that both men have now served years in prison and paid $400,000 to settle a related civil suit.

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