A suggestion for a president commuting prison sentences

Obama has now commuted the federal prison sentences of more than 1,000 prisoners, mostly non-violent drug offenders. Most have served far more time in prison than if they committed the same crime today, because previous mandatory sentencing laws have been relaxed.

Which brings us to H.R. 5815 — Resource Management Practices Protection Act of 2016 — introduced by Oregon Rep. Greg Walden. The bill would amend the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which was passed following the Oklahoma City bombing and requires a minimum of five years in prison for anyone convicted of damaging federal property by fire or explosives.

The bill would exempt from prosecution anyone who sets a fire on his own property to prevent damage — such as a backfire — or if that person is using a generally accepted practice for managing vegetation on timber, grazing, or farm land and fire doesn’t result in death or serious bodily injury.

Which brings us to Dwight Hammond and his son Steven, two Oregon ranchers now serving mandatory five-year sentences because fires set on their own property escaped onto federal land, burning 140 acres — one was a controlled burn and the other a backfire.

Even if passed, the bill would not result in the freeing of the Hammonds but could protect others from such frivolous prosecution in the future.

The bill has cosponsors from Idaho, Washington, Arizona and Utah but none from Nevada.

It was the sentencing of the Hammonds that prompted protesters earlier this year to takeover a federal wildlife refuge for more than a month. The protesters included two of the Bunkerville Bundy brothers, already notorious for their standoff with federal agents in 2014 who were trying to confiscate their cattle.

A jury earlier this year refused to the prosecute the Bundys and other protesters for the refuge takeover, but the Bundys and others face charges next year over the Bunkerville incident.

Obama announced in 2014 that he would use commutations to right the wrong of overly harsh sentences that did not fit the crime.

The Hammonds would appear to fit in that category.

The Hammond family

The Hammond family

16 comments on “A suggestion for a president commuting prison sentences

  1. Vernon Clayson says:

    The Hammonds are white, how many white people has Obama commuted sentences for?

  2. Steve says:

    Not only does it appear the Hammonds are lacking the proper amount of melanin, they have also been accused of a crime not on the Presidents list of harmless offenses.

  3. deleted says:

    The Hammonds were found guilty of terrorism under the statute by a jury of their peers. They weren’t convicted for merely back burning their own property.

    And, the takeover wasn’t a “protest” of the Hammonds sentences.

    And it might be interesting to know exactly which president, and which Congressional representatives voted FOR the original law that the Hammonds were convicted of violating.

    My own guess is that, predominately, it was a combination of far right wing types, and “conservative” types. Next time, talk to those people on advance of the legislation and maybe the Hammonds could have avoided the problem..

  4. Steve says:

    And we now have the far, far lefty wingnut Liberal (cap “L” intended) bullshit spew!

  5. It’s going to take President elect Trump to sign this legislation into law if passed (something the current occupant of the White House would never do)…and after taking office he may also commute the sentences of these two men who had already served their time…before the meddling US Attorney stuck their noses back into this dust up to prove their prowess and superiority with the mandatory minimum sentence for terrorism…something this law was never intended for.

  6. deleted says:

    “The jury convicted both of the Hammonds of using fire to destroy federal property for a 2001 arson known as the Hardie-Hammond Fire, located in the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area. Witnesses at trial, including a relative of the Hammonds, testified the arson occurred shortly after Steven Hammond and his hunting party illegally slaughtered several deer on BLM property. Jurors were told that Steven Hammond handed out “Strike Anywhere” matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to “light up the whole country on fire.” One witness testified that he barely escaped the eight to ten foot high flames caused by the arson. The fire consumed 139 acres of public land and destroyed all evidence of the game violations. After committing the arson, Steven Hammond called the BLM office in Burns, Oregon and claimed the fire was started on Hammond property to burn off invasive species and had inadvertently burned onto public lands. Dwight and Steven Hammond told one of their relatives to keep his mouth shut and that nobody needed to know about the fire.”

    https://www.justice.gov/usao-or/pr/eastern-oregon-ranchers-convicted-arson-resentenced-five-years-prison

  7. Question for he who must not be named: How many acres of public lands were inadvertently burnt up by the BLM in this same area when their so-called Controlled Burns were attempted and went awry? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwH1daa8NY8

  8. A judge in the case said that witness was 13 at the time of the events on trial and his memories as a 13-year-old boy were not clear or credible. Nevertheless, the judge allowed the testimony. There are also allegations of the boy having a grudge against the Hammonds.

  9. deleted says:

    Judges don’t get to make credibility judgements in jury trials.

    The jury apparently found the testimony credible. Which is what they get to do.

  10. deleted says:

    HFB:

    Not that it has anything to do with the Hammonds terror convictions but, I don’t know.

    Do you know how many Donald Trump supporters have burned crosses? I mean, since we’re asking irrelevant questions and all.

  11. Number one…the Hammonds were not convicted as “terrorists” even though they were prosecuted under an act that was named as such. Number two…the Hammonds were sent to prison for destroying 149 acres, enough land to feed three cow/calf pairs for one year…that’s right six head of cattle. This is what the BLM is responsible for in the very same area:

    “During her tenure as a full time BLM employee from 1997-1999, Maupin recalls other fires accidentally spilling over onto BLM land, but only the Hammonds have been charged, arrested and sentenced, she said. Ranchers might be burning invasive species or maybe weeds in the ditch. “They would call and the BLM would go and help put it out and it was not a big deal.”

    On the flip side, Maupin remembers numerous times that BLM-lit fires jumped to private land. Neighbors lost significant numbers of cattle in more than one BLM fire that escaped intended containment lines and quickly swallowed up large amounts of private land. To her knowledge, no ranchers have been compensated for lost livestock or other loss of property such as fences.

    Gary Miller, who ranches near Frenchglen, about 35 miles from the Hammonds’ hometown, said that in 2012, the BLM lit numerous backfires that ended up burning his private land, BLM permit and killing about 65 cows.

    A YouTube video named BLM Working at Burning Frenchglen-July 10, 2012 shows “back burn” fires allegedly lit by BLM personnel that are upwind of the main fire, including around Gary Miller’s corrals. The fire that appeared ready to die down several times, eventually burned around 160,000 acres, Miller said.

    Bill Wilber, a Harney County rancher, said five lightening strikes on July 13, 2014, merged to create a fire on Bartlett Mountain. The fire flew through his private ground, burned a BLM allotment and killed 39 cows and calves.

    While the fire could have been contained and stopped, BLM restrictions prevent local firefighting efforts like building a fireline, so only after taking in 397,000 acres did the fire finally stop when it came up against a series of roads.” (Erin Maupin, a former BLM range technician and watershed specialist)

    Please don’t insult us by saying this is irrelevant…

  12. deleted says:

    HFB:

    If you’re insulted because I tell you that the actions of an administrative agency were not criminal, and were in no way related to the criminal actions of the Hammonds I can’t do anything for you.

    The old “they did it (legally) too” is no defense to a criminal charge.

  13. It’s called “selective enforcement”…and it’s patently different than being “equal under the law”…there is a reason that the last landowner within the “national wildlife refuge” area was continually harassed and finally charged with “crimes”…while ranchers outside of that area who used the exact same management practices weren’t. You might think that a federal Kangaroo court with unlimited resources and top notch attorneys…coming up against a farming family is a fair fight…I certainly don’t. And it’s high time that a new interior secretary in the Trump administration…administers a thorough house cleaning.

  14. deleted says:

    I guess you figure if you speed down the street, and a cop speeds down the street, even if the cop is acting on oerformance of his duties, the cop is breaking the law just like you eh HFB?

    Guess if to get pulled over and he doesn’t, that’s some kind of selective enforcement eh HFB?

    And if a jury actually enforces the law, as written by a bunch of “conservatives” who are appealing to the constituents that are demanding tougher law enforcement against anything considered “terrorist” thereby winning points with them for actually doing something, and the jury hears the evidence and issues their verdict, that that makes it some hang jury, kangaroo court right? Cause, as we know, those “poor” old ranchers (and please make me laugh cause, any group of peole that own hundreds, of not thousands of acres of land, raising hundreds of head of cattle, worth hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars, doesn’t qualify to me as anything but rich so spare me the tears for their “inability” to afford decent lawyers when they violate the law) those poor old ranchers just got it tough right? I mean, the entire world is practically against them. Shoot, they hardly got enough support in the world to convince the State of a Nevada and the BLM to give them free food for their cattle and free water so they they can feed their many, many, many children. Heck, did you see that picture of that starving family Thomas posted, hardly look like they eat at all right?

  15. Hopefully Neil Kornze and the rest of the federal marauders are on borrowed time…January 20th can’t come soon enough!

  16. Steve says:

    Until Nevada’s basic speed law was changed just a few cycles ago, it was illegal for any vehicle to exceed the posted limit here (unless the safety equipment was authorized on and in performance of official capacity)
    That changed after some officer decided they could issue “reverse pace” speeding tickets. These tickets were issued after the officer was traveling at 20 or more miles per hour over the posted limit with people following them at the same speed. The Officers involved would stop the whole line and begin writing tickets.
    This was all fine and dandy until a few people decided to fight the tickets. The state didn’t have a leg to stand on and couldn’t prosecute because the police were breaking the basic speed law.

    So they got together with all the rest of their law enforcement buddy’s and got the legislature to change the basic speed law. This change resulted in there being NO SPEED LIMIT AT ALL for police.
    Shortly thereafter several Las Vegas Metro Police Officers died in single car crashes due to their own excessive speed while not on any official business.
    Today Las Vegas Metro has in place an internal speed limit of 20 MPH over any posted speed limit.

    Yup, it is as you thought, the police are above the law.

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