President Trump on Tuesday issued full pardons to a pair of Oregon ranchers whose arson conviction for setting fire to public land sparked the armed occupation of a national wildlife refuge led by anti-government “sovereign citizen” extremists Ammon and Ryan Bundy.
Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son Steven, 49, were convicted in 2012 and sent to prison on arson charges for setting a series of fires on their ranch that spread to federal land.
The Hammonds’ imprisonment inspired the 40-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016.
“The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds’ responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Tuesday announcing the pardon.
“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.”
The Hill notes:
Both men are currently in prison on five-year sentences, thanks in part to a 1996 anti-terrorism law that imposed a mandatory minimum sentence on certain crimes on federal land. The length of their prison terms, in part, fueled outrage at their convictions.
Federal judge Michael Robert Hogan originally gave the Hammonds reduced sentences in 2012, arguing that the mandatory minimums were unjust. But the Obama administration appealed, and federal Judge Ann Aiken in 2015 imposed the full five-year sentences.
“This was unjust,” Sanders said in her statement. Dwight Hammond has served about three years of his sentence and Steven Hammond has served about four of his, and Trump’s pardon will set them free.