A coalition of grassroots groups, trade associations and public officials celebrated Tuesday as President Donald Trump issued a full pardon for two Oregon ranchers convicted under an anti-terrorism law.
Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted of arson in 2012 under a 1996 anti-terrorism law. The law carried a minimum sentence of five years, but federal Judge Michael Hogan cut each man’s sentence short on the grounds the minimum sentence was “cruel and unusual.” After the ranchers served Hogan’s sentence, the Ninth Circuit ordered the men back to prison in 2014 to serve out the rest of the five-year minimum. The ruling incited local protests and a movement to pardon the Hammonds. (RELATED: Trump Issues Full Pardons To Oregon Ranchers Forced Back Into Prison Under Anti-Terror Law)
Protect the Harvest (PTH), an advocacy group that pushes back against government involvement in agriculture and outdoor pursuits, lobbied officials as high as Vice President Mike Pence on behalf of the Hammonds. PTH pushed for Trump to commute the ranchers’ sentences, at least. Pence “100 percent” supported PTH’s position and set the Hammonds’ case in front of Trump, PTH national strategic planner Dave Duquette told The Daily Caller News Foundation in June. (RELATED: Two Oregon Ranchers Were Convicted As Terrorists By ‘Malicious Prosecution.’ Trump Could Save Them)
National farming and ranching trade groups the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and Public Lands Council (PLC) publicly supported pardoning the Hammonds. Both associations have headquarters in Washington, D.C., and lobby federal officials on behalf of the agriculture industry.
Oregon Cattlemen’s Association President Jerome Rosa, representing ranchers throughout the state, spoke with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke about a pardon for the Hammonds. Zinke “said he would give his blessing to the president,” The Washington Post reported.
Oregon GOP Rep. Greg Walden advocated the Hammonds’ case in Congress, raising awareness of the “injustice” and crafting a bill that would prevent a repeat of the Hammonds’ case elsewhere. The legislation would “ensure farmers and ranchers are not prosecuted as terrorists” for conducting controlled burns on private lands.
Oregon residents and out-of-state protesters have called for the Hammonds to be released from prison. The Oregonian and other news outlets throughout the state have published editorials in support of commuting the Hammonds’ sentence.
Trump’s pardon was not universally well-received. Environmental groups slammed the announcement and the Hammonds in statements and on Twitter.
Center for Biological Diversity Environmental Health Director Lori Ann Burd called the Hammonds “child abusers and anti-govt zealots” and the pardon “a win only for those with no respect for life and basic decency.”
The Hammonds are child abusers and anti-govt zealots who endangered lives when they committed arson to cover up illegally slaughtering a herd of deer. This pardon is a win only for those with no respect for life and basic decency. https://t.co/4kqoytcsos
— Lori Ann Burd (@LoriAnnBurd) July 10, 2018
Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger blasted the Hammonds and Trump and said the pardon would undermine the trust of federal employees in administration they are working for.
“President Trump is telling anti-public land zealots there are no consequences for undermining every American’s birthright to our shared public lands and national parks,” Saeger said in a statement. “What’s just as bad is that it shows Department of Interior employees who face serious threats from anti-government extremists like the Hammonds that the administration does not have their backs. This pardon is a direct threat to America’s public lands and our shared national treasures.”
The Hammonds, once they are released from prison in California, will be flown back to Oregon in a private jet provided by Duquette’s boss, PTH founder Forrest Lucas.
“There are departments within our government which have basically been weaponized in a way that they are actually scary to deal with for [people in the West] and put a lot of people out of business,” Duquette told TheDCNF in an interview Tuesday. “This [pardon] going to send a message to those agencies that they can’t do that anymore. This kind of stuff is not going to be tolerated.”
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