President pardons ranchers in case that inspired 2016 occupation

President Trump pardons Oregon ranchers who inspired takeover of federal refuge

Two cattle ranchers convicted of arson in OR, a case that inspired the 2016 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation, were granted clemency by President Donald Trump Tuesday.

Two imprisoned ranchers who were convicted of intentionally setting fires in 2012 on public land in OR will be freed after President Donald Trump pardoned them on Tuesday. "Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency". Prosecutors appealed, and the Hammonds were ordered to serve the full five-year terms.

The second imprisonment caused a local backlash.

In a statement Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called that decision to resentence the Hammonds "unjust".

The pardons don't carry huge practical import; the Hammonds had already served most of their sentences.

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.

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Their case prompted a 40-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 by protesters objecting to federal land ownership.

Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son Steven Hammond, 49, were convicted of setting a fire in 2001, and Steven Hammond was convicted of setting a second fire in 2006, OregonLive reported, adding that the incidents occurred on Harney County land where they had grazing rights for their cattle. Her office appealed the lighter sentences because she said the trial judge didn't have discretion to depart from a mandatory minimum sentence.

Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Walden of OR, who lobbied the White House for the pardon of the Hammonds, said Trump's decision was "a win for justice, and an acknowledgement of our unique way of life in the high desert, rural West".

The U.S. Attorney's Office in OR said Astarita falsely stated he had not fired his weapon during the attempted arrest of protester LaVoy Finicum, who was shot dead by another officer during the incident, "when he knew he had in fact fired his weapon".

The pardons are the latest in a growing list of clemency actions by Trump, who has been using his pardon power with increasingly frequency in recent months. He has said he's considering thousands of other cases -famous and not. They have also paid $400,000 to the United States to settle a related civil suit.

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