Oregon ranchers pardoned by Trump

The Hammond family

Today President Trump pardoned two Oregon ranchers who were sentenced to five years in prison under a law intended to punish terrorists because two backfires they set to protect their property burned a few acres of public land, according to The Oregonian.

The decision frees Dwight Hammond Jr., 76, and son Steven Hammond, 49. Both were convicted in 2012 of arson.

A federal judge refused to sentence the pair to a minimum mandatory five years in prison under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which was passed following the Oklahoma City bombing. The father was sentenced to three months and son to a year, but prosecutors appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ordered the five-year sentences be imposed.

“The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement and farmers and ranchers across the West,” the White House said in a prepared statement. “Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.”

The resentencing of the Hammonds sparked the 41-day takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by protesters, including two of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy’s sons. A jury acquitted them of federal charges resulting from the takeover. They along with their fathers had charges against them dropped over the 2014 armed standoff with federal agents trying to confiscated Bundy’s cattle for failure to pay grazing fees. A judge ruled the prosecution failed to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence.

The Hammonds played no part in the Malheur protest and quietly returned to prison.

The two fires the Hammonds set burned a grand total of 140 acres. When the Hammonds were first convicted veteran federal Judge Michael Hogan refused to impose the five-year mandatory minimum, saying that was “grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses here.”

The judge reasoned, “Out in the wilderness here, I don’t think that’s what the Congress intended. And in addition, it just would not be — would not meet any idea I have of justice, proportionality.”

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

White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said at the time, “The president believes that one important purpose [of clemency] can be to help correct the effects of outdated and overly harsh sentences that Congress and the American people have since recognized are no longer in the best interests of justice.”

The Hammonds appeared to fit in that category, but Obama did not act, despite editorials calling for him to do so.

As of this month, according to The Oregonian, Dwight Hammond has served two years and eight months in prison and 31 months of supervised release. His son has served three years and three months in prison and two years of supervised release.

In 2014 the Bureau of Land Management refused to renew a grazing permit for the Hammond ranch, which has crippled the business, the family told the newspaper.

“If the Hammonds are unable to return to the ranch in the near future, the legacy and livelihood Dwight and Steven Hammond have been building for their family could truly be lost,” attorney Larry Matasar wrote in his petition. “A clemency would not only serve as a balm to the community’s angst about these sentences, but very practically, give the Hammonds a real chance to keep their ranch afloat.”


25 comments on “Oregon ranchers pardoned by Trump

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hardly news that the nominal president pardoned two convicted white terrorists.

    Can Timothy McVeigh be far behind?

  2. Won’t do him a lot of good since he was executed in 2001.

  3. Deleted says:

    Yeah but clearing his “good” name.

    White terrorist deserve the break what with the oppressive environment they have to deal with and all.

  4. Steve says:

    I think the 5 year mandatory sentence was misapplied too.
    The original sentence handed down was eminently fair and proper for the crimes committed, one of which was killing the “king’s” deer, then covering it up with fire.

    Compared to the idiot who used a weed torch on his own property in Brian Head Utah last year, he had no permit for the use….he ignited most of the mountain. And that mountain contains Dixie NATIONAL forest, which took most of the fire damage.
    His case is still in the courts, but it would appear the fix is in and his slap on the wrist will be due to his connections. Ranchers are not criminals, they are working their lands. The guy in Brian Head was using a TORCH to kill WEEDS…..not to ensure enough food stocks in the form of cattle could grow and make way to a market where we all partake of the product.

    Even if all you do is wear an item containing a bit of leather in its construct, you are benefitting from a rancher’s work to grow cattle.

    Who is more “terrorist” ? those who would have all of the USA subsist on imported goods from slave labor countries?
    OR shouldn’t we all support those who produce and operate locally? As in support local business?

    Don’t be a Patrick. Be a good human.

    Punishments should fit the crime.

    This pardon was spot on.

  5. Rincon says:

    Somehow, I don’t think the Founding Fathers intended the pardon to be used to insulate a President’s political allies from due process. Any bets that Trump doesn’t pardon a single liberal?

  6. Steve says:

    Applying terrorist law to non terrorist crimes is overreach.

    The original sentences (1 yr for one and 6 months for the other person) were appropriate.

    They were not and are not terrorists.

  7. Did they even commit a crime?

  8. Anonymous says:

    What did the jury say? That’s how America usually decides in my experience.

  9. Steve says:

    Killing the “Kings” deer and covering it up by setting a fire is the only crime they actually committed.
    Poaching is a crime. Covering it up is another. Arson is another.

    Setting backfires on one’s own property, with a permit to do so, is not a crime. (I do not know if those backfires were permitted)

    So, yes they committed crimes and they served the appropriate sentence for the the crimes committed. But they were not, are not and never were, terrorists.

  10. The “witness” to the “poaching” had a grudge among other things.

  11. Steve says:

    Then an appeal was indicated, right?

    Once they turned themselves in, they acknowledge they had no proof of any such grudge or they acknowledge guilt.

    Either way, they are not, were not and still aren’t (in any way shape or form) terrorists.

  12. Rincon says:

    The Hammonds went to jail for their 5 year sentence on January 4, 2016, less than a month before he left office, so why was Obama at fault for not pardoning them?

    I agree that the Hammonds were not terrorists, but that doesn’t seem to be relevant here. According to Wikipedia:

    “…the ranchers had repeatedly violated the terms of their special permit, which limited those times when they could move their cattle across refuge property.[12][15] Officials also reported that Dwight had made death threats against refuge managers in 1986, 1988, 1991, and 1994…”

    “After the arrest, locals were given the names and phone numbers of refuge employees, and encouraged to harass them. One caller threatened to wrap the Camerons’ 12-year-old boy in a shroud of barbed wire and stuff him down a well. Other callers warned his mother that she ought to move out before something “bad” happened to her family. She gathered their four children, one wheelchair-bound, and fled to Bend, 135 miles west. The families of three other refuge employees received telephone threats after a meeting held in support of the Hammonds, where the workers’ phone numbers were circulated.”

    “In 1999 Steven started a fire, intending to burn off juniper trees and sagebrush, but the fire escaped onto BLM land. The agency reminded him of the required burn permit and that if the fires continued, there would be legal consequences.[16]

    Both Dwight and Steven Hammond later set more fires, one in 2001 and one in 2006, that would lead to eventual convictions of arson on federal land.”

    By threatening the families of BLM employees, the Hammonds escalated the conflict. Although they couldn’t be convicted of the threats, these threats certainly motivated the Prosecutor to be aggressive.

    As I understand it, the argument here is with the law prescribing a 5 year minimum for arson. The terrorism law doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the mandatory sentence so far as I can tell, but rather, it limited the Hammonds’ right to multiple appeals. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong here, but I can’t find anything at all about arson in the 1996 Antiterrorism Act. If the penalty for arson is a minimum of 5 years, then that’s the minimum. Just as Conservatives think the Constitution should be read literally, with amendments being the only change allowed, I would expect the same treatment of our laws. Your argument is with the legislature, not the appeals court, and certainly not with Obama.

  13. Rincon says:

    BTW, as I understand this case, Trump’s pardon is entirely justified.

  14. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which was passed after the Oklahoma City bombing, 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.”

  15. Anonymous says:


    Why do you believe the pardon was justified?

  16. Rincon says:

    Thank you, Thomas. I just couldn’t find it.

    As I said, Anonymous, I feel it was justified from what I know. Although the threats deserved jail time, the charge was arson, so the sentence should reflect the seriousness of only the arson episodes. These three episodes don’t seem worth 5 years to me.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Without agreeing or disagreeing, wouldn’t that mean Trump ought to be pardoning everyone whose sentence is excessive?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Just as an example (and while I’m not suggesting the fact that these are white criminals had anything to do with Trumps decision) black defendants in this country are sentenced to 20% more prison time than white defendants are, even while the crimes! and circumstances surrounding the crimes are identical.

    If what is truly the basis for the pardon was the excessive nature of the sentence, then shouldn’t a trump be pardoning the men sentenced to 20% more jail time than their fellows?


  19. Steve says:

    Pardons based on percentages….you should run for prez….on that platform.

  20. Obama remained in office until Jan. 20, 2017.

  21. Anonymous says:


    Who was president when the Hammonds were convicted?

  22. Rincon says:

    Your point is well taken, anonymous. The Hammonds weren’t pardoned because of the excessive sentence so much as they were pardoned for being the poster children for fighting the big, mean ol’ government. As I said, I won’t hold my breath waiting for Trump to pardon anyone that even comes close to being a liberal, nor is he likely to pardon plain folk no matter how ridiculous their sentences.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps I’m more cynicle that you are Rincon.

    I believe that the Hammons were pardoned because the are white people….fighting the big bad gov’ment.

    Otherwise there are plenty of blacks convicted for lots of things that are examples of people fighting the big bad gov’ment who would have been pardoned.

    It’s simply wrong.

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