US Attorney Who Got Ranchers More Jail Time Was Investigated For ‘Erratic Behavior’

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The U.S. attorney who pushed for incarcerating two Oregon ranchers was under investigation for stalking one of her employees when she resigned from office in April, allegedly for “health issues.”

Amanda Marshall, the U.S. attorney for Oregon, pushed for ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond to be put back in prison after they were convicted of arson in 2012 and served time under an expansive anti-terrorism law. Marshall, however, was the subject of a federal investigation into her “erratic behavior” regarding one of her colleagues.

Sources told The Oregonian in March the Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general was looking into Marshall’s “erratic behavior involving a subordinate.” Sources said Marshall constantly texted and emailed Scott Kerin, an assistant U.S. Attorney. The Oregonian reported Marshall even admonished Kerin “for spending too much time with a woman who was not his wife.”

Marshall went on indefinite leave as news of the investigation broke, but didn’t formally resign from office until May 15, 2015. The Oregonian reported Marshall left because health issues were affecting her work, but reports of a federal probe into her behavior may have played a role.

Marshall’s lawyer tried to claim Kerin was in fact the subject of the inspector general’s probe, but the IG’s office, in a rare move, put out a statement rebutting Marshall’s attorney — though the IG did not confirm or deny the existence of a probe.

The IG’s office still won’t confirm or deny the existence of a probe into Marshall’s stalking of her colleague. An IG spokesman told The Daily Caller News Foundation that “we can’t confirm or deny the existence of an ongoing investigation.” The Oregonian relied on unnamed sources who informed them of the federal probe of Marshall.

Last fall, Kerin’s life was threatened by someone angry with his prosecution of a meth dealer with ties to the Mexican Mafia. Kerin was put into protective custody. The stress of work and the threat to his life reportedly contributed to marital troubles, and it was during these stressful times “Marshall constantly sought Scott Kerin’s attention,” according to The Oregonian.

Kerin eventually reported Marshall to his superiors, and he stepped down as head of the anti-drug unit. In early March, a DOJ investigator arrived in Portland and Marshall’s “government email fell silent and she switched cellphones,” The Oregonian reported.

It’s unclear if Marshall’s erratic behavior had any effect on the Hammonds’ prosecution, but it will likely raise questions about the rare decision by federal prosecutors to push for Dwight and Steven to be reincarcerated.

Dwight, 73, and his son Steven, 46, were convicted of arson by a Pendleton, Oregon jury in 2012 under an anti-terrorism law that carried a minimum sentence of five years in prison. The presiding judge, however, thought five years was too much for lighting fires on federal lands near the Steens Mountains, and sentenced Dwight to three months and Steven to one year and a day in prison.

The Hammonds served their time, but then prosecutors thought their sentence was too light. Marshall helped convince the DOJ to appeal the judge’s 2012 ruling — an extremely rare move.

“If the government stands by and doesn’t pursue the statutorily mandated sentence in this case, what kind of precedent does that set?,” Marshall said, adding the judge imposed “an unlawful sentence.”

In February 2014, an appeals panel ruled in favor of the government, and the Hammonds were re-sentenced to five years in prison in October 2015. They were scheduled to begin serving time Jan. 4, 2016 — which sparked a militia takeover of a building at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge over the weekend.

Led by Ammon Bundy, a rancher himself, the group is also protesting the federal control of most of the lands in the western U.S. and policies that are forcing ranchers, farmers and others to abandon their livelihoods.

Bundy’s family was involved in a stand-off with federal agents last year over cattle grazing on federal lands without a permit. Militiamen joined the Bundy’s to hold off Bureau of Land Management agents from entering their ranch.

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