Published: Tue, July 10, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Trump pardons OR ranchers whose case sparked 2016 militia standoff

Trump pardons OR ranchers whose case sparked 2016 militia standoff

In a move that sends a "very friendly message to some very unsafe 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 convicted in 2012 on two counts of committing arson on federal land. "The 2001 blaze burned 139 acres of public land, according to court documents; the 2006 fire - for which only Steven was convicted - burned an additional acre of public land".

"The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds' responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges", said the White House.

Bundy's militia, which included people from as far away as Arizona and MI, seized the headquarters of refuge as part of a long-running dispute over federal control of public lands in western US.

The Hammonds' case became the inspiration for the 40-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. One of the occupiers, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, was shot dead by Oregon State Police during the takeover.

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Trump has also said on Twitter he could pardon himself in case he would be convicted as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 USA presidential elections. Steven Hammond, 49, and has served about four years in prison. He also said that the Hammonds' five-year prison sentence was part of an "overzealous" prosecution by Obama administration officials, while calling the Hammonds "devoted family men" and "respected contributors to their local communities". However, that was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ordered that the Hammonds be resentenced "in compliance with the law".

The White House noted that Dwight Hammond, 76, had already served about three years behind bars and that his son Steven, 49, had served almost four years in prison.

Kim Rollims, 64, holds a sign in support of the Hammond family in front of the Harney County Chamber of Commerce, in Burns, Oregon, on January 27, 2016.

The statement added: "Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency".

The White House noted Dwight Hammond is now 76 years old and has served approximately three years in prison. The government appealed the sentence, and they were later given the maximum terms of five years in prison.

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