The issue is about justice, not a bunch guys with guns

The press sometimes has tunnel vision or gets easily distracted — oh my gawd, guns!

That appears to be the case with the Oregon standoff in which some people are occupying a federal building on a wildlife refuge. The issue the occupation was meant to shine a light on is being ignored.

On Monday father and son ranchers reported to prison to serve five-year terms for setting two fires on their own land that accidentally burned a total of 140 acres of public land on two occasions. One fire, they say, was meant to burn off invasive species such as junipers that reduced grazing area, while the other was a back burn to protect their crops and buildings.

Their attorneys argue the sentence is a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The two ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, were sentenced under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which was passed after the Oklahoma City bombing. The law mandates: “Whoever maliciously damages or destroys, or attempts to damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, vehicle, or other personal or real property in whole or in part owned or possessed by, or leased to, the United States, or any department or agency thereof, shall be imprisoned for not less than 5 years and not more than 20 years, fined under this title, or both.”

There is a big difference between accidentally and maliciously.

The prosecutors claim one of the fires was set to cover up evidence of deer poaching, though how that would work was never explained. That testimony came from a nephew of Steven who was 11 at the time and later claimed his uncle tried to sandpaper tattoos off his shoulders.

In any case, the Hammonds’ attorneys noted that others who in fact “maliciously” started fires on pubic lands were sentenced to less than five years, making a mockery of the mandatory five-year sentence argument.

The attorneys quote the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of appeal:

Over a five-year period beginning in October 1996 as many as sixteen individuals conspired to damage or destroy private and government property on behalf of ELF and ALF. The conspirators targeted government agencies and private entities they believed were responsible for degrading the environment through timber harvesting, cruelty to animals, and other means. The conspiracy covered multiple crimes in five Western states and resulted in tens of millions of dollars in damage.[ ] . . . After lengthy negotiations, all ten defendants agreed to proceed by way of criminal informations and pled guilty to conspiracy. Nine of the defendants also pled guilty to separate, substantive counts of arson and/or attempted arson.

Some of them were sentenced to only 36 months.

But all the focus is on the Bundy brothers and guys with guns.

(AP photo)

 

 

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25 comments on “The issue is about justice, not a bunch guys with guns

  1. Connie Foust says:

    As I recall ELF burned down a subdivision in Vegas. I was privy to the environmental tree spikers in MT, when I worked at the Sheriff’s Office, people do not recognize how violent the progressive left can be.

  2. nyp says:

    Those interested in what what presented in evidence at trial and upheld on appeal can read the government’s brief to the U.S. Supreme Court:

    http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/osg/briefs/2015/02/12/hammond-cert2-br_in_opp-osg_aay_v2b.pdf

  3. Steve says:

    All suspected child abusers should be convicted for arson under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 then sentenced to death!

    And we should charge them Indians a buck a head to go home.

  4. Who are you going to believe…”Think Progress” and the antagonistic US Attorneys or the Hammond’s neighbors, Erin Mauper (a former BLM range technician and watershed specialist and rancher in the area, with a keen knowledge of the long history involving the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), special interest groups and the cattle ranchers on the Steens Mountain of Oregon) and Rusty Inglis, an area rancher and retired U.S. Forest Service employee? I’ll take the neighbors…thank you very much.

    Fact: The first fire in 2001, a planned burn started by the Hammonds on their own property which spread to 138 acres of unfenced BLM grassland before the Hammonds themselves got it put out. No BLM firefighters were needed to help extinguish the fire and no fences were damaged and NO charges were filed.

    Fact: The second fire in 2006, was a backfire started by Steven to protect their property from lightning fires. The BLM asserts that one acre of federal land was burned by the Hammonds’ backfire. The next day federal agents went to the Harney County Sheriff’s office and filled a police report making accusations against Dwight and Steven Hammond for starting the backfire. Both Dwight and Steven Hammond were arrested and booked on multiple Oregon State charges.

    The Kicker: The Harney County District Attorney reviewed the accusation, evidence and charges, and determined the accusations against Dwight & Steven Hammond did not warrant prosecution and DISMISSED ALL CHARGES, allowing them to move into statutory expiration.

    Then FIVE YEARS LATER in steps the FEDS…five days before the statute of limitations runs out on the initial BLM filing that was thrown out…the U.S. Attorney Office accused Dwight and Steven Hammond on completely different charges accusing them of being “Terrorists” (and “Arsonists”) under the Federal Anti terrorism Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

  5. nyp says:

    People are sentenced to long terms under mandatory minimum laws every business day. Amazing that so much attention is given to these two arsonists.

    Are you guys going to advocate for the repeal of mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenders? Or is your sense of justice limited to fire-setting ranchers?

  6. Starting a planned burn and a back fire on your own property is NOT arson. And they are NOT terrorists…

  7. nyp says:

    Ummm, they burned 139 acres of federal land after telling a BLM district manager “we are going to light up the whole country on fire”. The land had to be removed from production for two growing seasons.

    That kinda sound like arson to me.

  8. They did not tell the BLM manager that or anything. That was the testimony of the estranged nephew.

  9. nyp says:

    Yeah, that appears to be right. Thanks for the correction.
    BTW, what do you now think about the wisdom of taking sentencing discretion out of the hands of judges and requiring mandatory minimums?

  10. Discretion can be abused, but mandatory minimums is one-size-fits all and fails recognize either aggravating or mitigating circumstances.

  11. nyp says:

    I agree.

  12. Steve says:

    The better the bust, the bigger the boost.

    Rule number 0001 USAM (private edition)

  13. Tying it all together…”Oregon Standoff Reveals There Is No Adult Supervision of Federal Agencies in the West”

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/429266/oregon-rancher-protest-federal-agencies-out-control

  14. nyp says:

    A bunch of guys committed arson on federal land. They were prosecuted for arson. The jury believed the prosecutors, not the defendants. There was clearly substantial evidence to support the jury verdict. The arsonists were sentenced to the prison term mandated by law.

    Hard to see this as an example of “out of control” federal bureaucrats.

    Your problem is with the mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. If you think they should be repealed, talk to your elected representative.

  15. Steve says:

    “A bunch of guys committed….”

    2 has become “A bunch”

  16. Take those cobalt blue colored glasses off nyp…you may see things a little clearer.

  17. Oh and nyp…let’s not read too much into a jury brought in from Pendleton Oregon with little or no knowledge of centuries old practices of planned burns and backfires to prevent damage to homes and livestock. I seem to remember another dimwitted jury saying OJ was not guilty…they’re fallible.

  18. nyp says:

    Sure juries are fallible. They are fallible all across America. If you now think that mandatory minimum sentences are a bad idea because they remove from judges the discretion to mitigate the actions of fallible juries, write your Congressman.

  19. Rincon says:

    The legal system demands a unanimous verdict, not a mere majority, by the jury. Although juries are sometimes wrong, trying to correct them based on the limited information in the press is like the guy in the nosebleed section claiming to see the play better than the ref standing three feet away. The jury spoke. The law was followed. Hard to criticize prosecutors when they got a jury to agree with them unanimously.

    As I understand it, controlled burns are generally done by trained professionals because they are inherently dangerous. Were these dopes trained by anyone? Besides, “…knowledge of centuries old practices of planned burns and backfires to prevent damage to homes and livestock.” sounds suspect. I’m not aware that planned burns were common prior to the 20th century – or even in the first half.

  20. Steve says:

    “Were these dopes trained by anyone?”

    You must write survey questions for the DNC….

  21. nyp says:

    The US economy added another 292,000 jobs. Manufacturing payrolls way up. Unemployment down to just above the full employment mark.
    ““The remarkable thing is how consistent employment growth has been over the past three or four years,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “We’re getting at least 200,000 jobs per month on a consistent basis. That’s quite an achievement.”

    I blame that job-killing ObamaCare.

  22. nyp says:

    Oh, and inflation. The stimulus, combined with Ben Bernanke’s debasement of the dollar, will, someday … I’m sure … just you wait and see .. I know it is coming … lead to runious inflation.

    Plus, ObamaCare bad.

  23. […] Hammond and his son Steven were charged and convicted under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which carries a minimum sentence […]

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