President Donald Trump pardoned two Oregon ranchers forced back into prison in 2016 to serve out the rest of the mandatory minimum sentence required under an anti-terrorism law.
“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.”
Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted of committing arson on federal land in 2012 under an anti-terrorism law from 1996. The U.S. District Court judge who sentenced the ranchers believed the mandatory minimum sentence was too harsh, thus both men served short stints in prison.
The Hammonds served their time, but federal prosecutors appealed the case and a federal court overturned the 2012 judgement. The Hammonds were forced back into prison in 2016 to serve the rest of their sentences.
The Hammonds’ re-incarceration sparked an armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon by brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy. An armed standoff between the Bundys and law enforcement ensued.
Protect the Harvest (PTH), agriculture advocacy group, has been lobbying the Trump administration to commute the Hammonds’ sentences, arguing forcing them back into prison was unjust.
“I’ve had great attorneys tell me this is the most malicious prosecution they’ve ever seen,” PTH national strategic planner Dave Duquette told The Daily Caller News Foundation in June.
“The travesty is what they were tried under. Not whether they started a fire. They admitted to starting the fires,” Duquette said.
Trump has so far issued five pardons to include conservative activist Dinesh D’Souza and former Bush administration official Scooter Libby. Trump has commuted sentences for two individuals.
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