Saturday, 22 September, 2018

Trump pardon of Oregon ranchers sparks concern, jubilation

In this composite with handout images provided by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office suspects Ammon Bundy Ryan Bundy Ryan Waylen Payne Brian Cavalier  Peter Santilli Joseph Donald OShaughnessy, and Shawna Cox pose for a Trump pardons Oregon ranchers at center of 40-day standoff | TheHill
Kenny Thornton | 11 July, 2018, 06:25

President Donald Trump granted full pardons to two cattle ranchers convicted of arson in a case that case sparked the armed occupation of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon.

In her statement, Sanders characterized the arson as "a fire that leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land".

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, a well-known figure in the battle over public land, welcomed the pardons, saying the Hammonds were victims of federal overreach.

After their lawyers argued against the five-year minimum sentence, a judge granted them much lighter terms - but federal prosecutors won an appeal and the Hammonds were required to serve the full five years.

The White House statement called the sentencing "unjust", adding that "the previous administration filed an overzealous appeal that result in the Hammonds being sentenced to five years in prison".

Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven Hammond were granted executive grants of clemency by Trump, according to a White House statement. They claimed to be keeping invasive species off of their land but prosecutors claimed they tried covering up evidence of poaching.

Ammon Bundy, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, speaks with reporters during a news conference at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, January 4, 2016, near Burns, Ore.

Dwight Hammond is now 76 years old and has served approximately three years in prison.

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"The Hammonds were serial arsonists who stole from USA taxpayers for years", former federal prosecutor Dwight Holton told KGW when he heard the news. The two paid $400,000 to the Bureau of Land Management to settle a related civil suit.

The pair were convicted in 2012 of intentionally and maliciously setting fires on public lands.

"Jurors were told that Steven Hammond handed out "Strike Anywhere" matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to 'light up the whole country on fire, '" the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement in 2015.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMcConnell to meet with Trump's Supreme Court pick Tuesday Kavanaugh offers lengthy judicial record ahead of bitter confirmation fight Hundreds protest Kavanaugh's nomination outside Supreme Court MORE on Tuesday pardoned a pair of OR ranchers whose arson conviction became a focus for opponents of federal government land ownership.

While numerous Hammonds' supporters didn't approve of the takeover, they saw the Obama administration's pursuit of longer prison sentences as vindictive.

During the standoff at the refuge, FBI Agent W. Joseph Astarita allegedly shot rancher Robert "LaVoy" Finicum when officers arrested leaders of the occupation.

On Jan. 2, 2016, militants seized the headquarters of the wildlife refuge in Harney County to protest the Hammonds' prosecution and sentencing.

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