A White House statement Tuesday explained Dwight Lincoln Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven Hammond, are multi-generation cattle ranchers who were imprisoned in connection with a fire that leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land.
The pardons will hopefully make it clear that federal managers are not free to put ranchers out of business and take their land, said Dave Duquette, national strategic planner for Protect the Harvest, an agricultural and hunting nonprofit.
"Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these grants of executive clemency".
The elder Hammond has served nearly three years of his sentence, while his son has been incarcerated for four years.
"The Hammonds were serial arsonists who stole from United States taxpayers for years", former federal prosecutor Dwight Holton told KGW when he heard the news.
"I am not going to apply the mandatory minimum ... because, to me, to do so under the 8th Amendment would result in a sentence which is grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses here", explained trial Judge Michael Hogan.
Originally, a federal judge imposed prison terms of three months for Dwight Hammond and a year for Steven Hammond after finding the five-year mandatory terms required under federal law "really would shock the conscience".
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, a well-known figure in the battle over public land, welcomed the pardons, saying the Hammonds were victims of federal overreach.
The Malheur 7, as they came to be known, were later acquitted of the government's charges by a jury.
A full pardon grants broader absolution, which undercuts the dangerousness of setting fires and indicates that public land can be burned without effect, Weiss said.
"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 challenge resulted in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sentencing them back to prison to complete five-year sentences, until Trump used his pardon power.
Prosecutors alleged in the indictment at the time that the Hammond family set fire to the rangeland after complaining the BLM was taking too long to complete required environmental studies before conducting controlled burn operations.
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