President Trump pardoned two Oregon ranchers Tuesday who were convicted of arson in a case that prompted an armed occupation of a wildlife refuge by opponents of federal land ownership.
The president granted clemency for Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son Steven, 49, who were convicted of arson charges in 2012 and imprisoned. They had set fires on their ranch that spread to federal land.
Federal prosecutors had asked for the maximum five year prison sentence to be imposed, but the trial judge sentenced them to three months and one year, respectively. The government appealed the sentence, and they were later given the maximum terms of five years in prison.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Obama administration “filed an overzealous appeal that resulted in the Hammonds being sentenced to five years in prison.This was unjust.”
“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,” Mrs. Sanders said. “Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these grants of executive clemency.”
The White House said evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds’ responsibility for the fire was “conflicting,” and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges.
Their case prompted a 40-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 by protesters objecting to federal land ownership.
The White House said Dwight Hammond, 76, has served about three years in prison. Steven Hammond, 49, and has served about four years in prison.
They have also paid $400,000 to the U.S. to settle a related civil suit.