Thursday, 19 July, 2018

Trump pardons western ranchers

President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday Trump pardons Oregon ranchers who sparked occupation of wildlife refuge
Ray Hunter | 14 July, 2018, 09:23

President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed full pardons for two OR ranchers serving federal prison time for setting fire to public land.

A father and son pardoned by President Donald Trump after being convicted of intentionally setting fires on public land in OR flew home after being released from custody.

Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency, full pardons for the cattle ranchers whose fire encroached on a small portion of neighboring public grazing land. But the judge, citing their respect in the community, reduced their sentences: Dwight initially received a sentence of three months; his son, Steven, a year and a day.

In a statement Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called the five-year sentences for the Hammonds "unjust".

Dwight and Steven Hammond walked out of federal prison in California several hours after Trump issued the pardons, said the Portland Oregonian.

A group of armed ranchers led by Ammon Bundy occupied the Malheur federal wildlife refuge in OR for 40 days in protest, claiming the federal government had overstepped its boundaries.

Dwight Hammond, now 76, has served about three years in prison and Steven Hammond, 49, about four years.

The Hammonds were convicted of crimes that require a mandatory minimum jail sentence of five years in prison under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

The Hammonds are serving prison sentences for setting the fires and paid $400,000 in civil damages.

"We're doing a lot of decompressing and getting back to our families", Steven Hammond said, adding that the first thing he wanted to do is hug his family. The Center for Western Priorities, based in Colorado, agreed, saying, "Pardoning the Hammonds sends a unsafe message to America's park rangers, wildland firefighters, law enforcement officers, and public lands managers".

Southgate: England to make as few changes as possible for play-off
However, he admitted that only time would tell if this run to the last four in Russian Federation ends up being their high point. All fans were happy their country playing a sport they say put them on the map. "There's an energy and connection that's back".

In its pardon, the White House said there were uncertainties in the Hammonds' case.

"Farm Bureau was shocked by the minimum five-year sentence the Hammonds faced", said American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall.

The dozens of armed people who occupied the refuge near the Hammond ranch for 41 days said the Hammonds were victims of federal overreach.

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 pardons are the latest in a series that have raised questions about whether Trump is using his presidential power to reward supporters.

Harney County Sheriff David Ward, who also petitioned the government to pardon the Hammonds soon after Trump's election, also welcomed the decision. Trump blamed the Obama administration for filing an "overzealous appeal" because the judge's sentence was too lenient under federal sentencing guidelines.

The move by Trump raised concerns that others would be encouraged to actively oppose federal control of public land.

Trump has also said on Twitter he could pardon himself in case he would be convicted as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) also reportedly reached out to Pence to help secure the release of the Hammonds.

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