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11 July 2018, 06:26 | Erica Roy
Justin Sullivan Getty Images North America
President Trump signed full pardons on Tuesday for OR cattle ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and son Steven Hammond, whose long-running dispute with the federal government ended with prison sentences for arson - and later inspired the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation.
The two OR ranchers were imprisoned in 2012 for arson, in a fire that encroached on Federal lands, and the incident is commonly viewed as a precursor to the Bundy family's infamous stands against the government.
"Pardoning the Hammonds sends a risky message to America's park rangers, wildland firefighters, law enforcement officers, and public lands managers", Rokala said in a statement.
Trump signed the order granting clemency to 76-year-old Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven Hammond, 49, who were convicted of arson in 2012 for fires that burned on federal land in 2001 and 2006.
The elder Hammond has served nearly three years of his sentence, while his son has been incarcerated for four years. Prosecutors appealed, and the Hammonds were ordered to serve the full five-year terms.
A statement from the Hammond family thanked the community for the support, and said they hoped the pardon would signal the need for a more measured and just approach by federal agents, officers and prosecutors.
In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that evidence against the Hammonds was "conflicting" and noted the trial judge's opposition to imposing the required mandatory minimum sentence. The two paid $400,000 to the Bureau of Land Management to settle a related civil suit.
The brothers and five other defendants were acquitted in 2016 by a federal court jury in Portland on charges stemming from the takeover.
But after the Hammonds were released a Barack Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney named Amanda Marshall appealed the release and the two men were subsequently forced to return to prison when an appeals court ruled Hogan could not reduce the sentences.
"Our family is grateful to the president and all who worked to make this possible", the Hammond family said in a statement.
The perceived unjust sentence for the Hammonds inspired Ammon Bundy to lead an armed standoff in early 2016, when a group of armed men broke into the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
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 U.S. Attorney's Office in OR said Astarita falsely stated he had not fired his weapon during the attempted arrest of protester LaVoy Finicum, who was shot dead by another officer during the incident, "when he knew he had in fact fired his weapon".
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