It is so very nice to have a president who knows when and how to use a pardon pen for the right reasons. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump used that pen to pardon and free Dwight and Steven Hammond, father and son from Oregon, who was convicted of arson on public land on which they had grazing rights in 2012.
“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 in a statement. “Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.”
The two men were ordered to prison to serve out five-year sentences in 2016. The case was one that made national headlines as the federal government operates a wildlife refuge on a tract of land in Harney County, Oregon, that abuts the Hammonds’ property. The Hammonds’ conviction of setting that federal land on fire was the case that triggered the 41-day armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Ammon Bundy was part of that effort and was acquitted by a jury following his trial.
Those in the rural west see this as a great victory as President Trump is working with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to straighten out some of the more anti-traditional laws and land grabs by the federal government. Tuesday’s pardon was not met with jubilation by everyone.
Amanda Marshall, who was Oregon’s U.S. attorney when the appeal occurred, defended it and said she was disturbed by Trump’s pardons.
“It means their conviction doesn’t exist. I find that incredibly troubling,” Marshall said. “I think it’s a slap in the face to the people in Pendleton who served on that jury and a slap in the face to the Constitution.”
Marshall said the Hammonds’ first sentences veered from the mandatory minimum set by Congress. The trial judge’s decision to issue shorter sentences violated the law, she said.
Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, also criticized Trump’s decision, saying it sends a “dangerous message” to America’s park rangers, wildland firefighters and public land managers.
“President Trump, at the urging of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, has once again sided with lawless extremists who believe that public land does not belong to all Americans,” Rokala said.
Regardless, the conviction and subsequent incarceration of Dwight and Steven Hammond has been deemed unjust, and they will be free men very soon.