The charge of arson for burning on federal land is what sparked the Bundy Protest and occupation of a wildlife refuge (SEE OUR PREVIOUS REPORT BELOW). The 41-day standoff was full of ups and downs but the death of LaVoy Finicum was devastating. What’s unbelievable is that the Hammond ranchers were ordered back to jail because a judge said they hadn’t fulfilled the minimum sentence even though evidence at the trial was “conflicting”.

Fox News reports:

President Trump just 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. Though they served their original sentences for the conviction — Dwight serving three months, Steven serving one year — an appellate judge ruled in 2015 that the terms were too short under federal minimum sentencing laws and the Hammonds were resentenced to serve the mandatory minimum.

Daily Mail reports:

Arson on federal land carries a five-year mandatory minimum sentence, but after the Hammonds were originally sentenced, they argued that the five-year rule was unconstitutional, and the trial court agreed and imposed lesser sentences.

But, in a statement from the US Attorney’s Office, federal law was eventually upheld.

‘The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, upheld the federal law, reasoning that “given the seriousness of arson, a five-year sentence is not grossly disproportionate to the offense”,’ it said.

‘The court vacated the original, unlawful sentences and ordered that the Hammonds be re-sentenced “in compliance with the law”,’

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“The Hammonds are multi-generation cattle ranchers in Oregon imprisoned in connection with a fire that leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land,” the White House said in a statement. “The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds’ responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges.”

OUR PREVIOUS REPORT ON THE BUNDY STANDOFF CASE:

The Bundy family of Nevada joined with hard-core militiamen Saturday to take over the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, vowing to occupy the remote federal outpost 50 miles southeast of Burns – pictured below – for years.

The occupation came shortly after an estimated 300 marchers – militia and local citizens both – paraded through Burns to protest the prosecution of two Harney County ranchers, Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond, who are to report to prison Monday.

Posted on Facebook by Tim Davis on Saturday, 2 January 2016:

THE STORY COULD SET THE STAGE FOR A WESTERN-STYLE SOAP OPERA:

“I call it ‘as the sagebrush burns,’” said Erin Maupin of the long and storied history involving the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), special interest groups and the cattle ranchers on the Steens Mountain of Oregon.

The latest scene involved two ranchers being sentenced to five years in federal prison for inadvertantly burning about 140 acres of BLM rangeland in two separate fires, years ago. That is an area big enough to feed about three cow-calf pairs for a year in that neck of the woods.

Dwight, 73 and son Steven, 46, admitted in a 2012 court case, to lighting two different fires. Both fires started on Hammonds’ private property. An August lightening storm started numerous fires and a burn ban was in effect while BLM firefighters fought those fires. Despite the ban, without permission or notification to BLM, Steven Hammond started several “back fires” in an attempt to save the ranch’s winter feed. The “back burn” fire break worked and protected the Hammond’s ranch. BLM firefighters saw the back-burn and called it into their headquarters as an “arson.”

Sadly, wind drove the back-burn onto federal land, on which the Hammonds paid for grazing rights. Despite this, the US Attorney for Oregon prosecuted the two men, saying they committed arson against federal property along with nine other charges. The jury convicted the men of only two charges, starting the fires they readily admitted to starting.

Arson against federal property calls for a mandatory minimum sentence of five years prison. The Hammonds argued that such minimum mandatory sentences were unconstitutional and a judge agreed. He sentenced the two men to LESS than the five years. Not satisfied, the US Attorney appealed and the Ninth US Circuit ordered the District Court to re-sentence the men in accordance with the statute.

THE FIRES:

The first, in 2001, was a planned burn on Hammonds’ own property to reduce juniper trees that have become invasive in that part of the country. That fire burned outside the Hammonds’ private property line and took in 138 acres of unfenced BLM land before the Hammonds got it put out. No BLM firefighters were needed to help extinguish the fire and no fences were damaged.

Dwight’s wife Susan shared some crucial details in an exclusive interview with SuperStation95.

“They called and got permission to light the fire,” she said, adding that was customary for ranchers conducting range management burns – a common practice in the area.

“We usually called the interagency fire outfit – a main dispatch – to be sure someone wasn’t in the way or that weather would be a problem.” Susan said her son Steven was told that the BLM was conducting a burn of their own somewhere in the region that very same day, but that they believed there would be no problem with the Hammonds going ahead with their planned fire. The court transcript includes the same information in a recording from that phone conversation.

In cross-examination of a prosecution witness, the court transcript also includes admission from Mr. Ward, a range conservationist that the 2001 fire improved the rangeland conditions on BLM.

Maupin, a former range technician and watershed specialist who resigned from the BLM in 1999, said that collaborative burns between private ranchers and the BLM had become popular in the late 1990s because local university extension researchers were recommending it as a means to manage invasive juniper that steal water from grass and other cover.

“Juniper encroachment had become an issue on the forefront and was starting to come to a head. We were trying to figure out how to deal with it on a large scale,” said the woman whose family also neighbored the Hammonds for a couple of years.

“In 1999, the BLM started to try to do large scale burn projects. We started to be successful on the Steens Mountain especially when we started to do it on a large watershed scale as opposed to trying to follow property lines.”

Because private and federal land is intermingled, collaborative burns were much more effective than individual burns that would cover a smaller area, Maupin said.

Susan said the second fire, in 2006, was a backfire started by Steven to protect their property from lightening fires.

“There was fire all around them that was going to burn our house and all of our trees and everything. The opportunity to set a back-fire was there and it was very successful. It saved a bunch of land from burning,” she remembers.

The BLM asserts that one acre of federal land was burned by the Hammonds’ backfire and Susan says determining which fire burned which land is “a joke” because fire burned from every direction.

Neighbor Ruthie Danielson also remembers that evening and agrees. “Lightening strikes were everywhere, fires were going off,” she said.

Maupin said prescribed burns to manage juniper were common in the late 1990s and early 2000s, best done late in the fall when the days are cooler.

Prescribed burns on federal land in their area have all but stopped due to pressure from “special interest groups,” Maupin said. As a result, wildfires now burn much hotter due to a “ladder” of material on the ground – grass, brush and trees.

“The fires now burn really hot and they sterilize the ground. Then you have a weed patch that comes back.”

Maupin said planned burning in cooler weather like the Hammonds chose to do improves the quality of the forage, and makes for better sage grouse habitat by removing juniper trees that suck up water and house raptors – a sage grouse predator.

“JUSTICE FINALLY CAME”

Thank goodness some justice finally came to this case! Citing “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct”, a federal judge dismissed charges against the Nevada rancher and three others…

Fox News reports:

A federal judge dismissed all charged against rancher Cliven Bundy and three others

U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro cited “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct” in her decision to dismiss all charges against rancher Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and another person.

The embarrassment a federal judge dealt to government prosecutors last month in the Cliven Bundy case could be set to resume Monday, at a hearing to determine whether the cattle rancher who became a folk hero long before he beat the feds can be retried.

U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro on Dec. 20 declared a mistrial in the high-profile case. It was only the latest, stunning development in the saga of the Nevada rancher, and served as a repudiation of the federal government. Navarro accused prosecutors of willfully withholding evidence from Bundy’s lawyers, in violation of the federal Brady rule.

The Brady rule, named after the landmark 1963 Supreme Court case known as Brady v. Maryland, holds that failure to disclose such evidence violates a defendant’s right to due process.

Navarro had suspended the trial earlier and warned of a mistrial when prosecutors released information after a discovery deadline. Overall, the government was late in handing over more than 3,300 pages of documents. Further, some defense requests for information that ultimately came to light had been ridiculed by prosecutors as “fantastical” and a “fishing expedition.”

“Either the government lied or [its actions were] so grossly negligent as to be tantamount to lying,” Napolitano said. “This happened over and over again.”

Navarro said Monday it was clear the FBI was involved in the prosecution and it was not a coincidence that most of the evidence that was held back – which would have worked in Bundy’s favor – came from the FBI, AZCentral reported.

ANOTHER BLACK EYE FOR THE FBI AND COMEY…


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