President Trump on Tuesday granted clemency to Oregon ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven — whose case spurred armed militants led by Ammon Bundy to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 41 days in 2016.
“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 White House said in a statement.
“The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds’ responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges.“
The statement went on to accuse the Obama administration of overzealous prosecution of the father and son.
“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 statement continued.
“The previous administration, however, filed an overzealous appeal that resulted in the Hammonds being sentenced to five years in prison. This was unjust.”
The White House noted that Dwight Hammond, 76, had already served about three years behind bars and that his son Steven, 49, had served nearly four years in prison. The pair had also coughed up $400,000 to settle a civil suit with the feds.
“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,” the statement said.
On Jan. 2, 2016, militants seized the headquarters of the wildlife refuge in Harney County to protest the Hammonds’ prosecution and sentencing.
Bundy was also part of the 2014 standoff at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada.
The Hammonds have been locked up since Jan. 4, 2016, after they were resentenced following their 2012 conviction for arson on public lands.
Their case spurred outrage in ranching communities across the West, with critics slamming the federal government for their aggressive tactics.
The Hammonds said the fires they had set on their own property to fight invasive plant species had accidentally spread to public lands.