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Russell Nemetz President Trump Pardons Oregon Ranchers Convicted of Arson
by Russell Nemetz, click here for bio

Program: Land & Livestock Report
Date: July 12, 2018

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President Donald Trump pardoned and commuted the sentences of two Eastern Oregon ranchers who were convicted of arson for setting fire to public land in 2012. The case enraged many supporters and resulted in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted in 2012 of intentionally setting fire to public lands. The Hammonds set a prescribed burn on 300 acres of their land that moved on to BLM land burned another 140 acres. The verdict carried a minimum sentence of five years in prison, but a federal judge granted much lighter sentences. However, federal prosecutors later won an appeal in October of 2015 and the father and son were sentenced to serve the mandatory minimum.

That decision inspired a 40-day occupation of the wildlife refuge in Oregon in 2016. Armed supporters argue the two men were treated unfairly. Led by Ammon Bundy, the group occupied the refuge from January to mid-February 2016. Ammon is the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who along with supporters staged a standoff with federal authorities in 2014 over a federal cattle roundup. The stand-off at the Wildlife Refuge came to an end when Bundy was arrested in a traffic stop and another occupier, Robert Finicum was fatally shot by Oregon State Police.

Both Hammonds were convicted of setting a fire in 2001, and the son was convicted of setting a second fire in 2006. Dwight Hammond, 76, has served over 2 years in prison and over 2 years of supervised release. His son Steven, 49, served over three years in prison and two years of supervised release.

In a prepared statement the White House said, "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.'

Ethan Lane, Executive Director of the Public Lands Council and NCBA Federal Lands said, "We are extremely grateful to President Trump for granting a full pardon to Dwight and Steven Hammond. The Hammonds were forced to suffer from grave injustice for far too long, and the entire ranching community is relieved that they will be reunited with their families. No rancher undertaking normal agricultural practices should fear spending years in jail at the hands of the federal government. NCBA and PLC have continued to advocate for the Hammonds' release, and we would like to thank Representative Greg Walden and the many others who worked tirelessly on their behalf."

The Oregon Cattlemen's Association says "The five-year prison sentence would "shock the conscience" and be "grossly disproportionate to the severity of their conduct" according to US District Judge Michael Robert Hogan in 2012. The five-year mandatory minimum under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 was not intended for a small rangeland fire. The decision to appeal Judge Hogan's order was "rare" and unjust.

The Hammonds are family men with widespread support throughout the country. OCA is grateful to President Trump for providing long overdue justice to the Hammonds and are anxious to welcome Dwight and Steven home to Harney County in eastern Oregon."

If you would like to listen to a special report by Russell Nemetz featuring the PLC's Ethan Lane, the Oregon Cattlemen's Association's Jerome Rosa and the Montana Stockgrowers Association's Jay Bodner, visit the followign link online.


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