Thursday, 16 August, 2018

Trump pardons ranchers in case that inspired 2016 occupation

President Trump pardons Oregon ranchers who inspired takeover of federal refuge President Trump issues pardon for Oregon ranchers
Jeannette Daniel | 10 July, 2018, 21:54

President Donald Trump has pardoned two ranchers whose case sparked the armed occupation of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon. Hammond was convicted of arson on federal lands.

Prosecutors won an appeal and the Hammonds were resentenced in October 2015 to serve the mandatory minimum.

The armed occupiers changed the refuge's name to the Harney County Resource Center, reflecting their belief that the federal government has only a very limited right to own property within a state's borders. Finicum was shot and killed by police during a January 26 traffic stop.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in OR said Astarita falsely stated he had not fired his weapon during the attempted arrest of protester LaVoy Finicum, who was shot dead by another officer during the incident, "when he knew he had in fact fired his weapon".

In a statement Tuesday announcing the pardon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders emphasized uncertainties in the case and the prison terms and fines the Hammonds had already completed.

Until Tuesday, his most recent pardon was that of Alice Marie Johnson, a first time drug offender who had been convicted to life in prison.

News media outlets in the state - including the Oregonian - have published editorials advocating for a presidential pardon, seeking clemency for the two men.

More news: YouTube invests $25 million on improving news

Trump has also said on Twitter he could pardon himself in case he would be convicted as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 United States presidential elections.

Most of the protesters at the Malheur site were acquitted of charges the government brought against them. They had set a series of fires on their ranch that spread to federal land. In a statement after that ruling, the Department of Justice cited evidence from the first trial, in which "Jurors were told that Steven Hammond handed out "Strike Anywhere" matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to 'light up the whole country on fire'". As a result, the judge imposed significantly lesser sentences.

Trump came to a similar conclusion, with the White House noting that both men have now served years in prison and paid $400,000 to settle a related civil suit.

Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven Hammond were granted executive grants of clemency by Trump, according to a White House statement.

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