John R. Houk
© July 11, 2018
Members of the Hammond family pose outside a ranch building on their property in Harney County in this undated photo. Steven Hammond, second from left, and his father, Dwight Hammond Jr., center, were pardoned Tuesday, July 10, 2018, by President Donald Trump. (Hammond family) [Photo from OregonLive]
President Trump gave pardons to Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond. Many, including myself, consider their convictions a huge blight on the Justice system. The Hammond family had a long dispute with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over cattle grazing and land management. They were actually convicted on terrorism charges because protecting their land from BLM started brush fires, they started their own fire on their own land. The Hammond fire slipped onto BLM managed Federal land. The BLM decided to make an example of the Hammonds undoubtedly to scare other ranchers in the Western States who also have long disputed BLM authority and practices.
The Hammonds actually pleaded guilty to the arson charges, but the original Judge saw how frivolous the Hammond fire was to Federal land, the gave very light sentencing. The light sentence ticked someone off in the Obama DOJ. Western Prosecutors appealed the short sentence which resulted in stiffer punishment that extended to years.
The incident of re-sentencing sparked a rancher rebellion in Oregon centered around the occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.
I found out about the pardons from the Freedom Outpost which I am cross posting. However, the local Oregon media under Oregon Live has greater detail.
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Trump Pardons Hammonds!
By TIM BROWN
JULY 10, 2018
Now, this is good news! On Tuesday, President Trump Oregon cattle ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, who had been serving sentences for arson.
A Statement from the White House read as follows:
Today, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency (Full Pardons) for Dwight Lincoln Hammond, Jr., and his son, Steven Hammond. 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 evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds’ responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges.
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 previous administration, however, filed an overzealous appeal that resulted in the Hammonds being sentenced to five years in prison. This was unjust.
Dwight Hammond is now 76 years old and has served approximately three years in prison. Steven Hammond is 49 and has served approximately four years in prison. They have also paid $400,000 to the United States to settle a related civil suit. 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.
Well, it took long enough, but thank you President Trump. You did the right thing in this matter.
And for all those who took the time to keep this story alive and urge people to petition the White House on behalf of the Hammonds, thank you!
It should be noted that the protests that took place in Oregon a couple of years ago were a response to the injustice the Hammonds faced. As a result, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was killed by Oregon State Police.
Those who led the protest were all acquitted of all charges and reporter Pete Santilli had all of his charges dismissed. No doubt, Finicum would have been found not guilty as well, but that’s not how tyrants work, is it?
Today is a day to celebrate a wrong that has not been fully made right, but has definitely turned in the right direction!
Article posted with permission from The Washington Standard.
Trump pardons Oregon ranchers whose case sparked Bundy takeover of refuge
By Maxine Bernstein
July 10, 2018 9:33 AM – UPDATED July 11, 2018 7:55 AM
President Donald Trump on Tuesday pardoned two eastern Oregon ranchers serving time in federal prison for setting fire to public land in a case that inflamed their supporters and gave rise to the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Dwight Hammond Jr., 76, and son Steven Hammond, 49, walked out of a federal prison in California about 6 1/2 hours later. They were convicted in 2012 of arson on Harney County land where they had grazing rights for their cattle. They were ordered back to prison in early 2016 to serve out five-year sentences.
“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 in a statement. “Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.”
Susie Hammond, Dwight’s wife and Steven’s mother, said she was sound asleep when a call from U.S. Rep. Greg Walden awakened her Tuesday morning. “He said it’s a done deal, the papers were signed,” she said. “We’ve been waiting a long time. I think it’s wonderful.”
Though Susie Hammond believed her husband and son had a strong case for clemency, she was reluctant to get her hopes up.
“I’ve just been sitting here, on the phone since,” she said. “I still can’t believe it. I won’t believe it until I see them.”
Walden said he looks forward to welcoming the Hammonds back to Oregon.
“Today is a win for justice and an acknowledgement of our unique way of life in the high desert, rural West,” he said. “I applaud President Trump for thoroughly reviewing the facts of this case, rightly determining the Hammonds were treated unfairly and taking action to correct this injustice.”
Trump’s move marks yet another big victory for backers of the Hammonds, including Ammon Bundy and his followers who repeatedly cited the case as the trigger for the 41-day occupation of the wildlife refuge that abuts the Hammond family ranch. A jury acquitted him and other key takeover figures of all federal charges.
“The true reason the Hammonds have suffered has not been corrected. It must be corrected,” Bundy said. He pledged to continue to fight against the federal government’s “control over land and resources inside our states.”
Both Hammonds were convicted of setting a fire in 2001, and the son was convicted of setting a second fire in 2006. A federal judge initially sentenced the father to three months in prison and the son to one year after they successfully argued that the five-year mandatory minimum was unconstitutional.
They served the time and were out of prison when prosecutors challenged the shorter terms before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and won. Another federal judge in 2015 sent the ranchers back to complete the full sentences.
According to the Trump administration, federal prosecutors who challenged the Hammonds’ original sentences filed “an overzealous appeal.”
“This was unjust,” the White House said.
The Hammond family also said in a statement that they hoped the pardon will “help signal the need for a more measured and just approach by federal agents, federal officers and federal prosecutors – in all that they do.”
Amanda Marshall, who was Oregon’s U.S. attorney when the appeal occurred, defended it and said she was disturbed by Trump’s pardons.
“It means their conviction doesn’t exist. I find that incredibly troubling,” Marshall said. “I think it’s a slap in the face to the people in Pendleton who served on that jury and a slap in the face to the Constitution.”
Marshall said the Hammonds’ first sentences veered from the mandatory minimum set by Congress. The trial judge’s decision to issue shorter sentences violated the law, she said.
Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, also criticized Trump’s decision, saying it sends a “dangerous message” to America’s park rangers, wildland firefighters and public land managers.
“President Trump, at the urging of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, has once again sided with lawless extremists who believe that public land does not belong to all Americans,” Rokala said.
As of this month, Dwight Hammond has served two years and nine months in prison and 31 months of supervised release. His son has served three years and four months in prison and two years of supervised release.
“I am very happy for the entire Hammond family, who I have known and respected for 25 years,” said attorney Larry Matasar, who represents Steven Hammond. “I hope that Dwight and Steven will soon be able to continue their work on the Hammond Ranch.”
Attorney Kendra Matthews, who represents Dwight Hammond Jr., said the pardon is “a just and proper resolution of the Hammonds’ criminal prosecution and we are thrilled that the Hammond family will soon be reunited.”
Susie Hammond had heard several weeks earlier that Trump was considering a pardon. At the time, she said she had a “sense that things are moving forward and I have faith in our president. If anyone is going to help them, he’d be the one.”
Ryan Bundy, who joined his brother Ammon as a leader of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, said the pardons were “long overdue. It’s time. It’s overtime.”
Bundy said he and others would like to return to Burns to give the Hammonds a “hero’s welcome” when they get out of Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institution in San Pedro, Calif.
In clemency petitions, lawyers for the Hammonds cited the ranchers’ longtime service to their community, the severity of their punishment, the trial judge’s support and their family situation.
“Unlike some cases where clemency may outrage the community, clemency for the Hammonds would be embraced by the Oregon community, both rural and urban,” Matasar wrote.
The lengthy sentences, plus the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s refusal in 2014 to renew a grazing permit for the Hammond ranch, have crippled the operation, the family has said. The Hammonds have appealed the federal agency’s denial.
“If the Hammonds are unable to return to the ranch in the near future, the legacy and livelihood Dwight and Steven Hammond have been building for their family could truly be lost,” Matasar wrote in his petition. “A clemency would not only serve as a balm to the community’s angst about these sentences, but very practically, give the Hammonds a real chance to keep their ranch afloat.”
Dwight Hammond set a prescribed burn on about 300 acres of his own land that then traveled onto Bureau of Land Management property and burned an additional 139 acres, his lawyer wrote. The elder Hammond said he was trying to fend off invasive species.
Prosecutors argued the fire also was to cover up illegal deer poaching and got out of control, placing firefighters who had to be airlifted out of the area in grave danger.
The federal pursuit of the Hammonds followed years of permit violations and unauthorized fires, and they never accepted responsibility, Marshall said. The Hammonds could have faced less than a year in prison under a plea offer they declined, she said.
The Hammonds’ lawyers pointed out in their clemency petitions that the father and son faced other sanctions. They paid $400,000 in 2015 to settle a civil suit brought by the government and are having a hard time sustaining the cattle operation because of the grazing permit denial.
They cited the opinion of the trial judge, U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan, who found the five-year sentences “grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses here” and noted that the fires didn’t endanger any people or property.
Prosecutors argued the fires did endanger others. When the government won the appeal of the Hammonds’ lower sentences, Acting U.S. Attorney Billy Williams issued a release, saying that the fires illegally set on public lands, even in remote areas, endanger firefighters called to respond. Marshall said “firefighters were in grave danger and had to be dramatically evacuated” after the fires set by the Hammonds.
Williams was asked by the Office of the Pardon Attorney to submit a written brief summarizing the Hammond litigation and his office’s position on the Hammonds’ clemency requests. He prepared a brief and submitted it, but his office declined to release it or summarize what Williams’ position was, calling the document privileged.
Williams also declined any comment Tuesday about Trump’s pardons.
Steven Grasty, a former Harney County commissioner, said he’s glad the Hammond saga has come to an end. He said he disagreed with first sentence, but didn’t see the value of sending the Hammonds back to prison after they had served their initial term.
“I’m really proud of the efforts of our community, Greg Walden, the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association,” Grasty said.
But he said the pardons shouldn’t be considered a win for the Bundys. “The Bundys complicated this. They made it worse. The Bundys didn’t know the Hammonds. They used them.”
Among those who wrote letters of support for the Hammonds’ clemency petitions were Walden, Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward, Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe as well as leaders of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and Oregon Farm Bureau.
Ward, who was the face of law enforcement during the 2016 occupation of the wildlife refuge in his county, wrote to the White House that he personally felt the initial sentences and the financial penalties “covered the debt owed to society.”
“This case was thrust into the national spotlight when, for lack of a better term, anti-government extremists exploited the Hammond family and began attempting to use their unfortunate circumstance to gain support for their own agendas,” Ward wrote.
He noted that Dwight and Steven Hammond rejected pressure they faced from Ammon Bundy and others to defy federal orders and instead turned themselves in to prison.
“It is my humble opinion that justice would be better served if these gentlemen were afforded the opportunity to return home,” Ward wrote. “For Dwight to spend his remaining years with his wife. For Steven to return to his family … and to set an example that along with being a nation of laws, we are a nation of compassion and forgiveness.”
On Tuesday, Ward said he was “happy for their families and I respect the decision, as it is a responsible and lawful use of our governmental system. … Now please allow this community to move on.”
Other letters of support described good deeds done for their neighbors, children and grandchildren’s schools, the county’s 4H and FFA clubs and many others in need. They spoke of Dwight Hammond’s sincerity, decency, his humility and the respect for him in Harney County — a man who dressed up as Santa Claus for schoolkids and what one friend described as “a real life John Wayne.”
Dwight Hammond’s wife, who is ailing, lives alone in Burns. Steven Hammond is married with three children.
“I am seeking commutation of my sentence so that I can return home to take care of my wife,” Dwight Hammond wrote. “I live in fear that one of us will pass before we are reunited.”
Trump’s action follows a flurry of pardons, including for Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative author convicted of illegal campaign contributions; I. Lewis Libby Jr., a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney; former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio; and Alice Johnson, 63, serving life for her role in a cocaine distribution ring.
The Hammond Ranchers Pardoned by Trump
John R. Houk
© July 11, 2018
Trump Pardons Hammonds!
Tim Brown is an author and Editor at FreedomOutpost.com, SonsOfLibertyMedia.com, GunsInTheNews.com and TheWashingtonStandard.com. He is husband to his “more precious than rubies” wife, father of 10 “mighty arrows”, jack of all trades, Christian and lover of liberty. He resides in the U.S. occupied Great State of South Carolina. . Follow Tim on Twitter. Also check him out on Gab and Steemit
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