Two cattle ranchers convicted of arson in Oregon, a case that inspired the 2016 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation, were granted clemency by President Donald Trump Tuesday.
Dwight Hammond, 73, and Steven Hammond, 46, were released from a federal prison in California at 2:10 p.m., according to their attorney.
The father and son said they lit the fires in 2001 and 2006 to reduce the growth of invasive plants and protect their property from wildfires.
The pair were convicted in 2012 of intentionally and maliciously setting fires on public lands.
The arson crime carried a minimum prison sentence of five years, but a sympathetic federal judge, on his last day before retirement, decided the penalty was too stiff and gave the father and son much lighter prison terms.
Prosecutors won an appeal and the Hammonds were resentenced to serve the mandatory minimum.
The decision sparked a protest from Ammon Bundy and dozens of others, who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near the Hammond ranch in southeastern Oregon from Jan. 2 to Feb. 11, 2016.
A White House statement released Tuesday announced the pardons for both Hammonds, stating they were “imprisoned in connection with a fire that leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land.”
The White House continued:
Dwight Hammond is now 76 years old and has served approximately three years in prison. Steven Hammond is 49 and has served approximately four years in prison. They have also paid $400,000 to the United States 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. Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.
Rep. Greg Walden hailed the clemency decision for the Hammonds, and wrote he looks “forward to welcoming them back home to eastern Oregon.”
The Oregon Farm Bureau also released a statement on the pardons, thanking everyone who “worked to end the injustice done to Steven and Dwight Hammond.”
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