Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven Hammond, fresh from federal prison following a pardon by President Donald Trump, are expected to step off a private jet at Burns Municipal Airport Thursday morning to a crush of well-wishers and their family.Their return to Burns comes two and a half years after protesters marched through the city in the middle of southeastern Oregon’s high desert to denounce the father and son’s impending court-ordered return to prison in January 2016 to serve out a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for setting fires to public land.Their case inflamed their supporters, drew support from right-wing militias and gave rise to the 41-day armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.The elder Hammond, 76, and son Steven Hammond, 49, were convicted in 2012 of arson on Harney County land where they had grazing rights for their cattle. Both were convicted of setting a fire in 2001, and the son was convicted of setting a second fire in 2006. The Hammonds accepted the Pendleton jury verdicts and agreed to waive their right to an appeal. A federal judge initially sentenced the father to three months in prison and the son to one year, ruling that the five-year mandatory minimum under a provision of an expansive federal law punishing terrorism was “grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses here.”They served the time and were out of prison when federal prosecutors challenged the shorter terms before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and won. Another federal judge in 2015 sent the ranchers back to complete the full sentences.
- Oregon ranchers pardoned by Trump expected to arrive in Burns via private jet