by WorldTribune Staff, July 11, 2018
U.S. President Donald Trump issued full pardons for two Oregon ranchers who the president said were serving “unjust” sentences due to an “overzealous appeal” filed by the Obama administration.
Dwight Hammond, Jr., 76, and his son Steven Hammond, 49, were pardoned by Trump.
“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 White House said in a statement. “The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds’ responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges.”
The Hammonds were convicted in 2012 under an anti-terrorism statute and received sentences of 3 months and one year, The Washington Post reported. The mandatory minimum sentences recommended in the case was five years.
Prosecutors, after the Hammonds had been released, challenged the judge’s decision to shorten their terms. The challenge resulted in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sentencing them back to prison to complete five-year sentences.
“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,” the White House statement reads. “As a result, the judge imposed significantly lesser sentences. The previous administration, however, filed an overzealous appeal that resulted in the Hammonds being sentenced to five years in prison. This was unjust.”
The Oregonian noted in a report that Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward had written a letter to support the Hammonds’ petitions for clemency.
“It is my humble opinion that justice would be better served if these gentlemen were afforded the opportunity to return home,” Ward wrote. “For Dwight to spend his remaining years with his wife. For Steven to return to his family … and to set an example that along with being a nation of laws, we are a nation of compassion and forgiveness.”
The White House noted that both men have now served years in prison and paid $400,000 to settle a related civil suit.
“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. “Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.”