Trump Pardons Oregon Cattle Ranchers, Citing ‘Overzealous Appeal’ by Obama Administration

President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday

President Trump signed full pardons on Tuesday for OR cattle ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and son Steven Hammond, whose long-running dispute with the federal government ended with prison sentences for arson - and later inspired the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation.

A statement from the Hammond family thanked the community for the support, and said they hoped the pardon would signal the need for a more measured and just approach by federal agents, officers and prosecutors.

In his statement regarding the clemency, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the evidence presented at their trial was "conflicting" and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges.

"At the Hammonds" original sentencing, the judge noted that they are respected in the community and that imposing the mandatory minimum, 5-year prison sentence would "shock the conscience" and be "grossly disproportionate to the severity' of their conduct".

Dwight and his son Steven Hammond were convicted of arson and faced a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, mandated by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

As of 2018, Dwight had served about three years in prison and Steven had served four, according to the White House.

The armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in remote southeast OR followed a judge's ruling sending Dwight Hammond and his son Steven back to prison to serve longer terms after their initial release from shorter sentences.

They have also paid $400,000 to the U.S.to settle a related civil suit.

The White House said Trump had pardoned Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son Steven Hammond, 49, who were convicted in 2012 for setting fire to federal lands where they held grazing rights for their cattle.

More news: 92-year-old man beaten with brick, told 'go back to Mexico'

The announcement came as President Trump set out for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meetings in Brussels, Belgium.

As for when the pair might be freed from federal prison, that event seems imminent: Larry Matasar, a Portland, Ore., attorney who represents the Hammonds, tells NPR that he spoke to the Office of the Pardon Attorney about sending the proper paperwork to the prison.

"Pardoning the Hammonds sends a risky message to America's park rangers, wildland firefighters, law enforcement officers, and public lands managers", Rokala said in a statement.

Led by Ammon Bundy, protesters occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from January 2 to February 11, 2016.

WND columnist Ilana Mercer commented in 2016 on "the sorry state of affairs", writing that "to look at rancher Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son, Steven, 46, is to see the salt of the earth, the best of America".

The Bundys and seven other members of the right-wing militia that took part in the armed occupation were acquitted of all charges in October of 2016, a decision that set what one critic called "a unsafe and far-reaching precedent for the kind of paramilitary intimidation and right-wing violence that underpins their movement".

He has said he's considering thousands of other cases -famous and not.

"It's a little spooky that's how far they will go", she said.

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