President Trump on Tuesday pardoned two Oregon ranchers whose convictions for arson on federal land motivated an anti-government group to occupy a wildlife refuge in the state for 41 days in 2016, resulting in the death of one rancher from Arizona.
Dwight L. Hammond, 76, and his son, Steven D. Hammond, 49, have each served several years after being convicted in 2012 of committing arson on federal property. The Hammonds, who had a history of anti-government disputes, had started unauthorized fires to protect their property against invasive species and an approaching wildfire, and in doing so burned 150 acres of federal land. They were found guilty under the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. Dwight Hammond served three months in jail and Steven Hammond served a year.
The prosecutor appealed the sentence, as the mandatory minimum sentence for the crime was actually longer, and each were ordered to return to prison and serve out the remaining part of the five-year sentence.
At the time, many people complained that the use of what was originally intended to be an anti-terrorism law against ordinary criminals was too harsh. The Trump Administration, in announcing the pardon, said in a statement it agrees. In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the sentencing “unjust” and blamed the Obama administration for filing “an overzealous appeal.”
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.
Trump has been unconventional about his granting of pardons, skipping the typical five-year waiting period for pardon requests and passing over thousands of applications. He has focused on celebrity when granting pardons, having already granted ones to former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff Scooter Libby, and right-wing troll Dinesh D’Souza. He also commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, with the support of Kim Kardashian West, and posthumously pardoned heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson after a .
campaign by Sylvester Stallone.