Trump pardons OR ranchers who inspired refuge standoff


The decision sparked a protest from Ammon Bundy and dozens of others, who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near the Hammond ranch in southeastern OR from January 2 to February 11, 2016, complaining the Hammonds were victims of federal overreach.

Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted in 2012 of intentionally and maliciously setting fires on public lands. They had set fires on their ranch that spread to federal land.

The father and son served time and were out of prison when prosecutors challenged the shorter terms and won, OregonLive said, adding that another federal judge in 2015 sent the ranchers back to complete the full sentences. "Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency". They claimed to be keeping invasive species off of their land but prosecutors claimed they tried covering up evidence of poaching.

Protesters who rallied to support the Hammonds included Ammon Bundy, who was part of the self-styled militia that broke into the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, beginning a 41-day standoff with the USA government over how it handles rangelands throughout the Western states.

The elder Hammond has served nearly three years of his sentence, while his son has been incarcerated for four years. The two paid $400,000 to the Bureau of Land Management to settle a related civil suit.

"We went up there to prevent the atrocity from happening to begin with, and if people would have listened to us, the Hammonds wouldn't have to have gone through this suffering", Bundy said in a telephone interview.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision and the ranchers were required to serve the full five years behind bars.

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Their imprisonment sparked armed activists to take over a federal wildlife refuge in protest of their treatment and government land-use regulations, according to The Guardian.

Aides say that Trump has been especially drawn to cases in which he believes the prosecution may have been politically motivated - a situation that may remind him of his own position at the center of the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian election meddling.

The brothers and five other defendants were acquitted in 2016 by a federal court jury in Portland on charges stemming from the takeover.

In its statement Tuesday, the White House called the appeal "overzealous" and the resulting sentence "unjust".

A USA flag covers a sign at the entrance of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, January 3, 2016.

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.