Trump Pardons Ranchers Whose Arson Case Sparked Refuge Occupation

Justin Sullivan  Getty Images North America

President Trump on Tuesday granted clemency to OR 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 said they started a fire on their property in 2001 to protect it from wildfires and reduce the growth of invasive plants, but that the fire got out of hand, CNN affiliate KTVZ reported.

In a statement deriding the former administration's handling of the case, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited how a judge ruled that the Hammond's faced a disproportionate sentence given their crimes.

A trial court agreed with the Hammonds that the five-year mandatory minimum sentence was unconstitutional and imposed lesser sentences, the U.S. Attorney's Office statement said. The government appealed the sentence, and they were later given the maximum terms of five years in prison.

As of 2018, Dwight had served approximately three years in prison and Steven had served four, according to the White House. The pair had also coughed up $400,000 to settle a civil suit with the feds.

"Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency", the statement read.

The announcement came as President Trump set out for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meetings in Brussels, Belgium. The Hammonds could have faced less than a year in prison under a plea offer they declined, she said.

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Supporters of the Hammonds, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, were outraged at prosecutors' actions and occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, ostensibly over the Hammonds' case.

Two imprisoned ranchers who were convicted of intentionally setting fires in 2012 on public land in OR will be freed after President Donald Trump pardoned them on Tuesday.

The occupation resulted in the death of one man, LaVoy Fincicum, who was shot and killed by Oregon State Police troopers when he drove his truck at a roadblock while trying to escape the refuge.

Our dumpster fire of a president has pardoned two OR arsonists who also threatened to kill federal officials, abused their nephew and illegally ran cattle on a national wildlife refuge.

"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", the White House said.

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