This West Is OUR West

Trump Pardons Eastern Oregon Ranchers [Hammonds] Sentenced For Arson

By Ericka Cruz Guevarra

July 10, 2018

President Donald Trump has pardoned two key figures whose arrests led to the armed occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Dwight and Steven Hammond, who were found guilty of arson on federal land, received Executive Grants of Clemency Tuesday, a move Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, says he’s applauding.

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“Today is a win for justice, and an acknowledgment of our unique way of life in the high desert, rural West,” Walden said. “I applaud President Trump for thoroughly reviewing the facts of this case, rightly determining the Hammonds’ were treated unfairly, and taking action to correct this injustice.

The Hammonds’ case was the impetus for 2016’s 41-day long occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge led by brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy. In late 2015, occupation leaders said they came to Harney County to keep the federal government from “taking” the father and son to federal prison.

In 2012, a jury found the Hammonds guilty of arson related to a 2001 fire on federal land. Jurors were told that Steven Hammond handed out matches to members of a hunting party he was with and told them to light and drop the matches on the ground, “because they were going to ‘light up the whole country on fire,’” according to a 2015 press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The fire burned 139 acres, according to the release.

Combined, the Hammonds served around 18 months in jail. But the Justice Department appealed the case, saying the men should each have to serve the federal mandatory minimum sentence of five years for destroying public property, meaning the land.

Michael Hogan, the federal judge who heard the Hammonds’ case, said the Hammonds’ five-year prison sentence was “grossly disproportionate to the severity of” their offenses.

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