Pardoned Oregon Rancher to Focus on Putting God in Public Schools

By Stephanie Mencimer

Last year, Western land activists and other conservatives had been lobbying President Donald Trump to pardon rancher Cliven Bundy, who in 2014 had engaged in an armed standoff with federal officials trying to confiscate his cattle that were trespassing on public property. But earlier this year, a federal judge dropped all the charges against Bundy thanks to misconduct by prosecutors, and there was no longer any need for Trump to pardon him. So Trump last week did the next best thing: He pardoned Oregon rancher Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven, whose 2012 convictions for arson on federal land had inspired Bundy’s son Ammon to lead the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016.

The takeover ultimately resulted in the death of one of the occupiers, LaVoy Finicum, who was shot by an FBI agent while fleeing the site, and it turned the Hammonds into a causecélèbre for activists in the West who believe federal land should be returned to the states. The Hammonds had battled the feds over a variety of land infractions for two decades before they were finally prosecuted for setting a fire that spread to federal land.

The Hammonds negotiated a short prison term for the arson charges and served just a few months. But in 2015, prosecutors succeeded in convincing a judge that the original sentence had failed to follow federal guidelines, and they were resentenced to five-year terms, a decision that helped set off the wildlife refuge takeover. The Bundys pressured the Hammonds not to report to prison, but they ignored the requests and turned themselves in as required.

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