The White House just announced that President Donald Trump has issued pardons to Dwight Lincoln Hammond Jr and Steve Hammond.
The nonprofit group Protect the Harvest, founded by oil executive Forrest Lucas to defend the rights of American farmers, ranchers, outdoor enthusiasts and animal owners, worked behind the scenes with U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, to get the ear of the White House in considering the clemency petitions filed by each Hammond. Following an appeal by prosecutors, a different judge ordered the men back to prison to serve the full five years, sparking protests and the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The Hammonds said they set the fires to protect their land from invasive species; prosecutors later said it was to hide eveidence of illegal deer hunting.
The President's pardon of the Hammonds will be seen in the minds of the far right militia movement as justification and absolution for the armed takeover of the land, a former law enforcement official who was involved in the OR militia standoff tells CNN.
Steven Hammond gave thanks Wednesday to Mr. Trump and the many people who wrote to him and his father while they were in prison. They argued the Hammonds were victims of federal overreach.
Federal anti-terrorism law called for mandatory five-year sentences for the 2012 convictions.
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. Both were convicted of setting a fire in 2001, and the son was convicted of setting a second fire in 2006. One of the occupiers, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, was shot dead by Oregon State Police during the takeover.
Originally, a federal judge imposed prison terms of three months for Dwight Hammond and a year for Steven Hammond after finding the five-year mandatory terms required under federal law "really would shock the conscience". What I do know is that their case eventually led to the Bundy brothers taking over the Malheur wildlife refuge headquarters in OR, becoming a cause célèbre among the "sovereign citizens" and other assorted militia nutballs out here in the West.
"The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds' responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges", the statement said. These folks were all being oppressed by The Man-and the Hammonds in particular were oppressed by Barack Obama-so pardoning them is a politically useful stunt.
The Hammonds largely distanced themselves from the occupation and are part of a family known in the high desert of eastern OR for its generosity and community contributions.