The Oregon ranchers who inspired the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon will be let out of prison and cleared of all charges, the White House says.
President Trump issued an executive order of clemency on Tuesday for Dwight and Steven Hammond, two Oregon ranchers whose imprisonment on federal arson charges inspired Ammon Bundy to lead a group of antigovernment extremists in a 41-day occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in 2016.
“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. Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency,” the White House said in a statement.
The Hammonds were convicted of arson for starting fires on public lands adjoining their ranch near Burns, Oregon. In January 2016, both said they would voluntarily report to federal prison to begin serving five-year mandatory sentences and not seek sanctuary from the local sheriff and militias who had rallied to their help.
That decision — announced in dramatic fashion as a crowd of antigovernment “Patriots” gathered on the Hammonds’ front steps — prompted Ammon and Ryan Bundy, sons of Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy, to storm the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and stage an armed occupation in hopes of forcing the federal government to open public lands in the West.
In its statement, the White House noted the judge in the Hammonds’ original sentencing had said the mandatory prison sentence under federal code would “shock the conscience” and be “grossly disproportionate to the severity” of their conduct.
Dwight Hammond, 76, has served about three years in prison, while Steven Hammond, 49, has served about four. They have also paid $400,000 to settle a related civil lawsuit.
This story will be updated.