President Trump pardoned two OR cattle ranchers on Tuesday whose sentencing sparked a standoff led by states' rights activist Ammon Bundy in 2016. The Hammond family and their supporters insisted they started a "prescribed fire" to burn off invasive species, and the case became a symbol to some conservatives of government overreach in rural parts of the American west.
"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 armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in remote southeast OR followed a judge's ruling sending Dwight Hammond and his son Steven back to prison to serve longer terms after their initial release from shorter sentences.
Dwight has so far served about three years in prison and Steven has served about four years.
On Jan. 2, 2016, militants seized the headquarters of the wildlife refuge in Harney County to protest the Hammonds' prosecution and sentencing.
The pardon power has its most compelling use when correcting a government injustice. They had set a series of fires on their ranch that spread to federal land.More news: Donald Trump still pondering Supreme Court pick as big reveal nears
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The takeover was another flare-up in a decades-old conflict over federal control of millions of acres of public land in the Western United States. Her office appealed the lighter sentences because she said the trial judge didn't have discretion to depart from a mandatory minimum sentence. "For more than twenty years, Hammond family members have been responsible for multiple fires in the Steens Mountain area". A judge, however, initially gave Dwight Hammond three months and his son Steven Hammond a year and a day behind bars.
Protesters who rallied to support the Hammonds included Ammon Bundy, who was part of the self-styled militia that broke into the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, beginning a 41-day standoff with the USA government over how it handles rangelands throughout the Western states.
Aides say that Trump has been especially drawn to cases in which he believes the prosecution may have been politically motivated - a situation that may remind him of his own position at the center of the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian election meddling. The pair had also coughed up $400,000 to settle a civil suit with the feds.
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