President Donald Trump has pardoned Oregon cattle ranchers Dwight Hammond and his son on Tuesday, who had both been targeted by the federal government in a harassment campaign that lead to the 2016 occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge, according to a White House statement.
Dwight Hammond, 73 and son Steven Hammond, 46, were convicted of terrorism and arson charges after setting backfires on federal land in 2001 and 2006 to reduce the growth of invasive plants and protect their property from wildfires. Dwight was sentenced to three months in Federal Prison and his son received a sentence of 1 year.
Despite both father and son serving their full court ordered prison term, the federal government in 2016 moved to prison the Hammonds again — for a crime they had already served time on, thus violating the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
A federal judge ruled that their first terms were too short under U.S. minimum sentencing law and ordered them back to prison for about four years each. This decision sparked outrage throughout the western states, and haad many ranchers claiming that it was just another attempt to intimidate the last of the ranching families to give up their land to the federal government.
The Hammonds’ case led to an armed 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, during which one occupier was shot dead by law enforcement. The occupation of the Wildlife Refuge was the latest flare-up in a decades-old conflict over federal control of millions of acres of public land in the Western United States.
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who did not attend the reserve occupation but advised his sons there from afar, said the pardons vindicated his family’s cause.
“I’m thankful that these men have got some possibilities and have freedom now,” he said in a telephone interview from his ranch near Mesquite, Nevada. “It’s a great day for the Bundys, it’s a great day for the ranching community, and it’s a great day for America that there’s some justice here.”
Statement from the Press Secretary Regarding Executive Clemency for Dwight and Steven Hammond
Today, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency (Full Pardons) for Dwight Lincoln Hammond, Jr., and his son, Steven Hammond. The Hammonds are multi-generation cattle ranchers in Oregon imprisoned in connection with a fire that leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land. The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds’ responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges.
At the Hammonds’ original sentencing, the judge noted that they are respected in the community and that imposing the mandatory minimum, 5-year prison sentence would “shock the conscience” and be “grossly disproportionate to the severity” of their conduct. As a result, the judge imposed significantly lesser sentences. The previous administration, however, filed an overzealous appeal that resulted in the Hammonds being sentenced to five years in prison. This was unjust.
Dwight Hammond is now 76 years old and has served approximately three years in prison. Steven Hammond is 49 and has served approximately four years in prison. They have also paid $400,000 to the United States to settle a related civil suit. 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. Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.