While most of us were exchanging Christmas gifts and celebrating the start of a new year, Oregon Ranchers Dwight Hammond, Jr., 73, and his son, Steven Hammond, 46, were preparing for a return to prison on January 4th, 2016.
Among other things, the Hammonds were charged with various counts of Arson on federal property – punishable by a five-year mandatory minimum sentence according to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
On January 2nd, an estimated 300 Hammond family supporters – including Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy – held a peaceful protest against what they called the unconstitutional treatment of the ranchers.
While the peaceful protest continued, Ammon Bundy and other armed individuals left, entering and occupying the Bureau of Land Management’s Malheur Wildlife Refuge headquarters, which had been closed for the holiday.
Following the occupation, Ammon Bundy said the refuge’s creation was “an unconstitutional act,” and called for the release of the Hammonds and for the federal government to relinquish control of the area.
“This is about the federal government controlling the land and resources, and putting whole counties and whole states in economic duress, this is about violations of human rights, about the federal government not even caring about what is in the Constitution.”
In 2010, the United States of America charged Oregon Ranchers Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven Hammond with Arson for:
1) Setting a government pre-approved “prescribed burn” fire which spread to 139 acres of unoccupied state land – actually raising its value according to Bureau of Land Management reports. Nobody was hurt, damages at the time were under $100 and the Hammonds extinguished the fire themselves without outside assistance.
2) Setting an unapproved “back burn” fire to save their property from a lightning-related range fire. Given their ignorance to the fact the Hammond property would be threatened by an act of God, the ranchers did not receive prior government authorization and a “burn ban” was in effect. The ranch was saved, but one acre of government land was impacted – again raising its value, according to BLM reports.
The Hammonds openly admitted to both incidents and thus the jury found them guilty of those charges, dismissing others. To avoid continued deliberations on unresolved charges, a plea deal was reached with the state.
The Government requested a five-year mandatory minimum sentence in accordance with the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Judge Hogan thought using a terrorism related statute in the case would be improper and would violate the Eight Amendment, constituting cruel or unusual punishment.
Dwight was sentenced to three months in prison and Steven to twelve months and one day – which they both served. While they were in prison, the Government filed an appeal to the sentence with the Ninth Circuit Court and received the mandatory minimum they originally requested.
On Monday January 4th, The Hammonds surrendered themselves to continue their unconstitutional five-year mandatory minimum sentences.