President Donald Trump granted pardons on Tuesday to father-and-son cattle ranchers in southeastern Oregon. Father and son – Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond were sentenced to serve prison time on two separate occasions for the same charges of arson on public lands.
The charges against the Hammonds for a fire that spread to a small portion of neighboring public grazing land. This incident in part led to the protest at the Bundy ranch. The return to prison of Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond was the spark that led to a 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016.
That occupation led to the shooting death of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a rancher who acted as the protesters’ spokesman. Finicum’s murder by a state trooper during an encounter between the armed occupation group and law enforcement led to charges against an FBI special agent.
Much of this protest and occupation was indicative of a broader frustration that has been building across the West over federal land control. The federal government owns significant land in the West, which has led to anger from many ranchers over federal policies, a dispute that is often overlooked in other parts of the country.
“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.”
In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said an “overzealous appeal” of the Hammonds’ original sentences during the Obama administration, which sent them back to prison, was “unjust.”
Sanders stated of the pardon – “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.”
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.”
The conviction of the Hammonds has drawn significant rebuke from the local community and there have been accusations that the family was aggressively prosecuted using anti-terrorism statutes because they were outspoken about public land use in rural Oregon.
Dwight and Steven, admitted in a 2012 court case, to lighting two different fires, both of which were originally started on the Hammonds’ private property. The first fire was a planned burn in 2001 on Hammonds’ own property in an effort to reduce juniper trees that are considered invasive in that part of the country. That fire burned outside the Hammonds’ private property line. As a result, the fire encompassed approximately 138 acres of unfenced BLM land before the Hammonds extinguished the fire. No BLM firefighters were needed to help extinguish the fire and no fences were damaged.
According to Susan, Dwight’s wife and Steven’s mother – “They called and got permission to light the fire,” explaining this is a customary practice among ranchers conducting range management burns which is a common practice in the area.
Susan explained, “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.” She stated that Steven was told the BLM was also planning to conduct a burn of their own on the same day somewhere in that region and there would be no problem with the Hammonds going ahead with the planned fire on their property as well. The information from this phone conversation was included as part of the court transcript.
Cross-examination of a witness for the prosecution further revealed an admission from a range conservationist by the name of Mr. Ward, in which he stated the 2001 fire improved the rangeland conditions on BLM. His testimony is part of the official court record.
Former range technician and watershed specialist, Erin Maupin was a former BLM employee, resigning in 1999. She states that collaborative burns between private ranchers and the BLM are common, rising to popularity in the late 1990s due to local university extension researchers and their recommendations to use these burns as a means to manage invasive juniper that steal water from grass and other ground cover.
Maupin states – “Because private and federal land is intermingled, collaborative burns were much more effective than individual burns that would cover a smaller area. Prescribed burns on federal land in their area have all but stopped due to pressure from “special interest groups.”
As a result of meddling from these special interest groups, wildfires now burn much hotter due to a “ladder” of material on the ground – grass, brush, and trees. Maupin states – “The fires now burn really hot and they sterilize the ground. Then you have a weed patch that comes back.”
However, planned burns in cooler weather like the Hammonds chose to do improves the quality of the forage, as well as making for a better sage grouse habitat by removing juniper trees that suck up water and house raptors – a sage grouse predator.
Ruthie Danielson, a neighbor of the Hammonds with bordering property confirmed this practice, stating – “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. 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.
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.”
Susan states the second fire took place in 2006 and was started by Steven as a backfire in an effort to protect their private property from lightning fires. Steven started several “backfires” in an attempt to save the ranch’s winter feed. The “backburn” firebreak worked and protected the Hammond’s ranch.
She recalled the events that took place stating – “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.”
The BLM claimed that a single acre of federal land was burned by the Hammonds’ backfire, land which the Hammonds paid for grazing rights on prior. Though according to Susan and others attempting to determine which fire actually burned which land is “a joke” because due to the lightning storms – the reason for the backfire in the first place – the fire was burning in every direction.
Nevertheless, BLM firefighters saw the backburn and called it into their headquarters as an “arson.” The US Attorney for the state of Oregon indicted and tried the two men on charges of arson against federal property along with nine additional charges. A jury convicted the two men on only two of the charges, for starting the fires which they readily admitted to starting in the first place.
Arson against federal property calls for a mandatory minimum sentence of five years prison, though the Hammonds were able to successfully argue before the court through their attorneys that such a mandatory sentence was unconstitutional and the judge agreed. As a result, the judge sentenced both men to less than the five-year minimum sentence. Dwight serving three months, Steven serving one year.
However, the U.S. attorney appealed the sentence to the Ninth Circuit. In 2015 an appellate judge with the Ninth Circuit District Court ruled the terms were too short under federal minimum sentencing laws.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reasoned that “given the seriousness of arson, a five-year sentence is not grossly disproportionate to the offense.” The court vacated the original sentences and ordered that the Hammonds be re-sentenced “in compliance with the law.”
That sentence to federal prison for the Hammonds then prompted the Bundy family of Nevada to join with local militiamen to take over the headquarters of the wildlife refuge, vowing to occupy the remote federal outpost 50 miles southeast of Burns until justice was served. Approximately 300 militia members and local citizens, including ranchers, marched through burns in protest of the prosecution of Dwight and Steven.
A federal judge later dismissed all charged against rancher Cliven Bundy two of his sons and another person citing “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct” in her decision.
Fox News reported –
“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.”
As an American, I am dismayed to learn of the pardons issued to Dwight and Steven Hammond. As an Oregonian, I'm disgusted. They are arsonists and have caused nothing but harm to our state and country. What of the jobs lost, the laws broken and the money spent on these criminals?
— Shelley Engle (@shellspdx) July 10, 2018
So, Trump just pardoned Dwight and Steven Hammond, the 2 arsonists at the center of the Bundy militia stand off, presumably because he hadn't done something to ingratiate himself to white nationalists in a whole 12 hours.
— Drew Gibson (@SuppressThis) July 10, 2018
Your takeaway from the Dwight and Steven Hammond pardons is that white guys can be forgiven for any crime as long as they wear cowboy hats doing it
— Matt Osborne (@OsborneInk) July 10, 2018
There is no reason to pardon Dwight and Steven Hammond.
They broke the law. They are being punished according to the law.
You cannot claim to be the party of "law and order" while ripping children away from legal asylum applicants and pardoning convicted arsonists.
— Nunca Trump (@NeverTrumpTexan) July 10, 2018
The White House is now pardoning these two men and attempting to right significant wrongs done to the men and their families. It is true that it seems people only consider injustice when it directly effects them but the truth is injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere. When certain groups of people are targeted, how long before that becomes you or me?
WATCH: Alec Baldwin tells donors to ‘Overthrow’ Trump at Democrat Fundraiser
These Hollywood lunatics don’t seem to get it. The more they make threats towards our President..The more they fire up the American people. So please..keep it up. That giant red tsunami is coming in November.
Baldwin’s career is so in the gutter that the only job he can get is being unfunny on SNL.
Oh..and by the way..‘The Alec Baldwin Show’ Premiere Totally Bombs. Breitbart has more on that story.
From Fox News:
MANCHESTER, N.H. – Less than 24 hours after reprising his Emmy Award-winning parody of President Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” Alec Baldwin took aim at the president again.
“In an orderly and formal way, and lawful way, we need to overthrow the government of the United States under Donald Trump,” Baldwin said Sunday night at a major fundraising dinner for New Hampshire’s Democratic Party.
“I flew here this morning after doing ‘Saturday Night Live’ last night,” the actor, comedian and longtime liberal political activist told a crowd of some 800 party office-holders, candidates, officials and activists, drawing loud applause.
Baldwin said his role as Trump on “SNL” wasn’t supposed to last as long as it has.
“‘Just three shows,’ he said,” Baldwin recalled “SNL” producer Lorne Michaels saying as he tried to convince the actor to portray then-candidate Trump. “‘Till the election,’ he said. ‘Then he’ll be gone,’ he said. ‘Three shows. It will be fun,’ he said.”
But Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election resulted in an extension of Baldwin’s run on the late-night comedy show – including this weekend’s opening sketch about Trump’s recent meeting with rapper Kanye West.
Turning serious, Baldwin then rallied the crowd to vote in next month’s midterm elections, saying “this election and the one that follows in 2020 will be the most consequential elections since the election of FDR.”
He added: “It is time to overthrow the government of Donald Trump — not in a violent way or unlawful way — but it must be overthrown nonetheless.”
Baldwin ended his nearly 20-minute-long speech by putting his own spin on the president’s famous campaign slogan.
“Let’s make America great again by making Donald Trump a casino operator again,” he said.
“Let’s make America great again by making Donald Trump a casino operator again.” — Alec Baldwin
Some New Hampshire Republicans criticized the state’s Democrats for choosing Baldwin as their keynote speaker. They pointed to Baldwin’s past problematic behavior, including making abusive comments to and about women, and making homophobic remarks.
Taking questions from reporters after his speech, Baldwin didn’t directly answer.
“Most of the time people are trying to tar me with a brush about defending Woody Allen,” he said, referring to the filmmaker who has long faced allegations of sexual assault, which he has denied.
Baldwin also told reporters that he’s “always dreamed” of running for office himself, but explained it’s not in the cards for him at this time.
“My wife told me she’d divorce me if I ran for office,” he joked.
NEW: Asked his take on the potential #2020election Democratic presidential contenders, @AlecBaldwin – in NH tonight – says "I don’t think anybody that’s a front runner now of the top six, seven, eight names that I’ve seen… is going to have an easy time of it" #nhpolitics #FITN pic.twitter.com/RXRMvlIrEc
— Paul Steinhauser (@steinhauserNH1) October 15, 2018
He also downplayed suggestions that his Democratic activism would limit the success of “The Alec Baldwin Show,” his new venture on ABC.
Baldwin has long been a backer of Democratic candidates and causes. He famously declared that he’d move to Canada if then-Texas Gov. George Bush won the 2000 presidential election. Though Bush did win, Baldwin didn’t move.
More recently, Baldwin campaigned last year for Democrat Ralph Northam in Virginia’s hotly contested gubernatorial election. And last November he headlined the Iowa Democrats’ major fall fundraising gala.
New Hampshire is the state that holds the first presidential primary every four years — and Sunday night’s dinner over the years has been a key stop for potential Democratic White House hopefuls.
Baldwin previously made headlines in June when he told radio host Howard Stern that if he made a 2020 presidential bid, he would beat Trump.
“If I ran, I would win,” Baldwin said. “I would absolutely win.”
Baldwin said Sunday that if he had decided to run, “I thought it would be such a pleasure to go around the country and try to remind people that, Let’s get back to a time of common sense.”
But Baldwin said he’s not very optimistic when he considers the potential field of Democrats vying for the party’s presidential nomination in 2020.
“I’m hoping that someone that isn’t necessarily on the horizon right now would materialize,” Baldwin said, “because I don’t think anybody that’s a frontrunner now of the top six, seven, eight names that I’ve seen, I don’t think any of them is going to have an easy time of it.”
He also took another shot at the president.
“Every day I wake up, I still am horrified,” he said. “I feel like I’m in some dream that Trump is president of the United States. I almost can’t even say it.”
BREAKING: Federal Judge Dismisses Stormy Daniels’ Defamation Lawsuit Against Donald Trump
This is breaking right now. A federal judge has dismissed Stormy Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against Trump, and said that Trump is entitled to legal fees from her.
Trump has emerged victorious!
The Washington Times is reporting:
“A judge has dismissed the defamation lawsuit brought against President Trump by a porn star who claims to have had an affair with him.
According to a Fox News report, the judge also ordered the porn actress, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford and who has been represented by attorney Michael Avenatti, to pay Mr. Trump’s legal fees — customarily, a rebuke of a lawsuit ever being brought.
“No amount of spin or commentary by Stormy Daniels or her lawyer Mr. Avenatti can truthfully characterize today’s ruling in any way other than total victory for President Trump and total defeat for Stormy Daniels,” said Trump attorney Charles Harder in a statement issued by the White House.”
JUST IN: A judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by Stormy Daniels against President Trump, rules Daniels is liable for the president's attorney's fees. pic.twitter.com/47cS2Mb5In
— Fox News (@FoxNews) October 15, 2018
— John Roberts (@johnrobertsFox) October 15, 2018
Breaking: Federal judge dismisses Stormy Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump. pic.twitter.com/wkbcbd6gwe
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) October 15, 2018
Stormy’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti responded:
“Re Judge’s limited ruling: Daniels’ other claims against Trump and Cohen proceed unaffected. Trump’s contrary claims are as deceptive as his claims about the inauguration attendance.
We will appeal the dismissal of the defamation cause of action and are confident in a reversal.”
Re Judge’s limited ruling: Daniels’ other claims against Trump and Cohen proceed unaffected. Trump’s contrary claims are as deceptive as his claims about the inauguration attendance.
We will appeal the dismissal of the defamation cause of action and are confident in a reversal.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) October 15, 2018
The Hollywood Reporter also reported:
“A judge sees Trump’s tweet about a “con job” as “rhetorical hyperbole” and orders the porn queen to pay his attorneys fees.
Stormy Daniels was the plaintiff in this one.
She not only sued Trump to invalidate a hush agreement over an alleged affair, but in the midst of the controversy, her attorney Michael Avenatti sheparded a claim over one of Trump’s tweets.
Last April, Avenatti released a sketch of a man who allegedly threatened Daniels into remaining silent back in 2011. Trump tweeted, “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”
In response, Trump moved to have the complaint stricken under Texas’ anti-SLAPP statute, which provides special protection against frivolous litigation usurping one’s free speech activity. Charles Harder, his attorney, argued that the statement at issue represented protected opinion and that Daniels hadn’t sufficiently alleged damages nor stated facts to show Trump acted with actual malice.
U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero concludes that Daniels has failed to establish a prima facie case for defamation.
“The Court agrees with Mr. Trump’s argument because the tweet in question constitutes ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ normally associated with politics and public discourse in the United States,” states the opinion. “The First Amendment protects this type of rhetorical statement.”
The judge continues by defining “rhetorical hyperbole” as “extravagant exaggeration employed for rhetorical effect” and characterizes Trump’s tweet as displaying “an incredulous tone, suggesting that the content of his tweet was not meant to be understood as a literal statement about Plaintiff. Instead, Mr. Trump sought to use language to challenge Plaintiff’s account of her affair and the threat that she purportedly received in 2011. As the United States Supreme Court has held, a published statement that is ‘pointed, exaggerated, and heavily laden with emotional rhetoric and moral outrage’ cannot constitute a defamatory statement.”
Otero adds that Trump made a “one-off rhetorical comment, not a sustained attack on the veracity of Plaintiff’s claims” and that this distinguishes this suit from other cases where courts have seen enough to deem defamation from a public statement. The judge adds that Daniels’ assumption that Trump knew of the 2011 threat doesn’t establish facts adding up that he did, in fact, know about the threat. The judge ends up agreeing with Trump that Daniels hasn’t shown actual malice nor adequately pled damages.
Daniels won’t get the opportunity to amend her complaint to cure deficiencies, and what’s more under Texas’ anti-SLAPP statute, she now has to pay Trump’s legal costs — perhaps a rubbing of salt in the wound to those who contributed to Daniels’ legal defense fund. However, she does have a right to pursue an appeal.
UPDATE: In a tweet following publication of this story, Avenatti attempted to frame the ruling as “limited” and said it wouldn’t affect her other claims looking to invalidate the contract. (There, Trump offered her a covenant not to sue and is arguing a court no longer has jurisdiction to entertain that controversy.) Avenatti added, “We will appeal the dismissal of the defamation cause of action and are confident in a reversal.””
A little history on the lawsuit:
A U.S. federal judge in Los Angeles on Monday appeared poised to throw out adult film actress Stormy Daniel’s defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump on free-speech grounds, Reuters reported.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued the president in April over a tweet in which he denied her claims of being subtly threatened by a man in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011.”
“Daniels said the man was threatening her for going public about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. Trump has denied the affair took place, and cast doubt on her story of being threatened.
“A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!” Trump tweeted.
Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti said the tweet damaged her credibility by portraying her as a liar. Trump’s attorneys have asked a federal judge in Los Angeles to dismiss the suit.
“The question is whether the tweet by the president is protected communication or political hyperbole and non-defamatory on its face,” U.S. District Judge James Otero said during Monday’s hearing.
“He’s a public official, he’s president of the United States, so it doesn’t get much higher than that,” Otero said. “It’s free speech by a public official on a matter of public concern.”
He continued, “(Allowing) the complaint to go forward and to have one consider this to be defamatory in the context it was made would have a chilling effect,” Otero said during the hearing.
Avenatti told reporters he expects a ruling within days and plans to appeal if the suit is dismissed.
Otero scheduled a hearing Dec. 3 to discuss Trump’s efforts to dismiss another lawsuit by Daniels over a hush-money agreement related to their alleged affair.
Daniels sued Trump and his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who negotiated the deal, so she could speak publicly about the alleged affair without fear of reprisal. Cohen had threatened to sue her for $20 million.”
WATCH: Alec Baldwin tells donors to ‘Overthrow’ Trump at Democrat Fundraiser
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