President Donald Trump pardoned two men on Tuesday who were involved in a dispute with federal authorities over federal land usage that sparked the takeover of a wildlife refuge in Oregon.
The federal pursuit of the Hammonds followed years of permit violations and unauthorized fires, and they never accepted responsibility, said Oregon's former U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall.
Their case prompted a 40-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 by protesters objecting to federal land ownership.
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said, "I applaud President Trump for thoroughly reviewing the facts of this case, rightly determining the Hammonds were treated unfairly, and taking action to correct this injustice". "For more than twenty years, Hammond family members have been responsible for multiple fires in the Steens Mountain area".
Bundy and his supporters were eventually arrested, a lot of them during a confrontation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and state police on a snow-covered roadside where a spokesman for the group, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, was shot dead.
The armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeast OR followed a judge's ruling that sent Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven, back to prison to serve more time after their initial release.
Trump has often used his pardon power to benefit people he sees as targeted by his political opponents.
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On Jan. 2, 2016, militants seized the headquarters of the wildlife refuge in Harney County to protest the Hammonds' prosecution and sentencing. Prosecutors appealed, and the Hammonds were ordered to serve the full five-year terms.
"Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency", the statement read.
The Oregon Farm Bureau said in a statement "while nobody can restore what they've lost to this prosecutorial overreach and bureaucratic vendetta, we are happy that this bad chapter will be coming to a close soon". The Hammonds could have faced less than a year in prison under a plea offer they declined, she said.
The Malheur 7, as they came to be known, were later acquitted of the government's charges by a jury.
News media outlets in the state - including the Oregonian - have published editorials advocating for a presidential pardon, seeking clemency for the two men.
"The Hammonds are multi-generation cattle ranchers in OR imprisoned in connection with a fire that leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land", the White House said in a statement.
"I am not going to apply the mandatory minimum ... because, to me, to do so under the 8th Amendment would result in a sentence which is grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses here", explained trial Judge Michael Hogan.