Trump pardons cattle ranchers whose arson convictions sparked 41-day armed police standoff with infamous Bundy clan

Tuesday, July 10, 2018
By Paul Martin

President Donald Trump pardoned two ranchers whose case sparked an armed occupation of federal land
Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted on arson charges in 2012
Ammon Bundy and dozens of others occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in protest
They led a 40-day armed occupation
Court dispute over five-year mandatory minimum sentences which were upheld
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said there was ‘fire that leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land’
Called the Hammonds ‘devoted family men’
Trump has issued a series of pardons and commutations
Some observers have said they could send a signal to potential witnesses under pressure in the Russia probe

10 July 2018

President Donald Trump has pardoned two ranchers whose case sparked the armed occupation of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon.

Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted in 2012 of intentionally and maliciously setting fires on public lands. 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.

Prosecutors won an appeal and the Hammonds were resentenced in October 2015 to serve the mandatory minimum.

The decision sparked a protest from Ammon Bundy and dozens of others, who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near the Hammond ranch in southeastern Oregon from Jan. 2 to Feb. 11, 2016, complaining the Hammonds were victims of federal overreach.

The armed occupiers changed the refuge’s name to the Harney County Resource Center, reflecting their belief that the federal government has only a very limited right to own property within a state’s borders.

Bundy was arrested during a Jan. 26 traffic stop, effectively ending the protest. Another key occupier, Robert ‘LaVoy’ Finicum, was fatally shot that day by Oregon State Police.

In a statement Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called that decision to resentence the Hammonds ‘unjust.’

‘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,’ she said. ‘Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.’

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