Trump pardons western ranchers

President Trump pardons Oregon ranchers who inspired takeover of federal refuge

President Donald Trump on Tuesday pardoned a pair of ranchers convicted of arson on federal lands where they had grazing rights for their cattle, a case that aggravated long-simmering tensions over land use in the Western U.S.

The Hammonds were convicted in 2012 after a jury found them guilty of intentionally and maliciously setting fires on public lands. A federal judge initially sentenced the father to three months in prison and the son to one year, ruling that the five-year mandatory minimum under a provision of an expansive federal law punishing terrorism was "grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses here".

The White House statement called the sentencing "unjust", adding that "the previous administration filed an overzealous appeal that result in the Hammonds being sentenced to five years in prison".

As of this month, Dwight Hammond has served two years and nine months in prison and 31 months of supervised release.

The family of jailed rancher Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son, Steven, 49, in a statement late Tuesday thanked Trump.

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

According to a White House statement, "The Hammonds are multi-generation cattle ranchers in OR imprisoned in connection with a fire that leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land".

The Hammonds were released Tuesday.

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A couple of TV satellite trucks were parked across the street, and about three dozen members of the media filled the courtroom. The 66-year-old was brought into NY state Supreme Court wearing handcuffs, but he was uncuffed during proceedings.

The Hammonds were given five years, with credit for time served, in 2015.

The nonprofit would not have objected to Trump simply commuting the Hammonds' sentences and setting them free, Weiss said.

Their case spurred outrage in ranching communities across the West, with critics slamming the federal government for their aggressive tactics.

The Hammond family, well-known in eastern OR, had been embroiled for years in a legal dispute over several fires that damaged federal property. What I do know is that their case eventually led to the Bundy brothers taking over the Malheur wildlife refuge headquarters in OR, becoming a cause célèbre among the "sovereign citizens" and other assorted militia nutballs out here in the West.

The pardons come as some federal employees in the rural West are wary of what they say is a high likelihood that more standoffs could develop, NPR's Kirk Siegler reports, citing soil scientists, cattle range managers, and the people who staff recreation sites.

The pair were expected to arrive at Burns Municipal Airport in southeastern OR, about 120 miles (190 km) east of Bend, after on Wednesday morning, the family statement said.

In 2014, Cliven Bundy held an armed standoff with federal law enforcement when he and his family refused to pay federal grazing fees from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.

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