President Donald Trump granted two pardons to the two ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond who were convicted in 2012 of intentionally and maliciously setting fires on public lands. The Hammond’s had been serving five-year terms in federal prison until pardoned on Tuesday.
The convictions of the ranchers sparked the armed occupation of the Oregon national wildlife refuge by Ammon Bundy — the son of rancher Cliven Bundy — and other self-proclaimed militia members, who took control of empty federal buildings armed with long guns and outfitted in tactical gear.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement on Tuesday that the Obama administration had been “overzealous” in pursuing the Hammonds. “This was unjust,” she said.
The statement by Sanders reads in part:
“Today, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency (Full Pardons) for Dwight Lincoln Hammond, Jr., and his son, Steven Hammond. The Hammonds are multi-generation cattle ranchers in Oregon imprisoned in connection with a fire that leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land. The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds’ responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges.
At the Hammonds’ original sentencing, the judge noted that they are respected in the community and that imposing the mandatory minimum, 5-year prison sentence would “shock the conscience” and be “grossly disproportionate to the severity” of their conduct.“
Sanders concluded her statement with: “Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.”
CBS Video of Hammonds returning home
Unjust move in comparison to the plight of the water protectors at Standing Rock
Bruce Ellison, who served as legal counsel for Red Dawn Fallis -- the water protector who was sentenced Wednesday to 57 months in federal prison for the possession of a firearm and civil disobedience -- says there is an unjust sentiment that President Trump has demonstrated by the pardon of ranchers who incited the occupation of federal property and lands.
“The fact that he (President Trump) was saying there seem to be legitimate issues that these folks were raising, and that he was going to pardon them? I think what is disturbing is that the only concern that Trump seems to have in regard to a presidential pardon has to do with only people who are ideologically like-minded.”
“One can only imagine what would happen if a group of Native people today were to take over a federal government building, and held arms and started fires,” said Ellison.
Ellison said that with over 100 active water protector cases, the President could show true resolve if he pardoned the water protectors.
“If Trump really was a person concerned about such issues, he would exonerate the water protectors. All of them.”
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling