Following pardon, Oregon ranchers are greeted at airport

Their arrest and imprisonment in 2016 inspired a protest that turned into an occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge near their hometown of Burns, Oregon. The occupation came to a dramatic close when Arizona rancher Lavoy Finicum was shot and killed by police officers and the other protesters were arrested when the caravan traveling to a meeting in John Day, Oregon was stopped by a police roadblock.

Tri-state Livestock News

Carrie Stadheim

Back to reality: Dwight Hammond says America needs to get on her knees and pray

For the last two-and-a-half years, the highlight of Dwight Hammond’s day was hearing the Star Spangled Banner playing on the radio every morning at 6 a.m. “That helped me start my day on a good note.”

Hammond also developed a fresh admiration and empathy for servicemen and women, some of whom are incarcerated due to actions they took as the result of trauma they endured while serving the country, he believes. “I have great compassion for the military personnel in this country. My hat goes off to them,” he said.

Hammond experienced a “cushy life” in prison, he says, making him even more grateful for the hardworking Americans who took the time to write to him or to write to the White House in support of a pardon.

“In prison, the roof didn’t leak, I had three meals a day. It’s you people out here trying to make ends meet that deserve the credit.”

Dwight Hammond, 76 and his son Steven, 49 were found guilty of violating an anti-terrorism law that required a five year minimum sentence, so even though the original sentencing judge said it would “shock the conscience of the court” to sentence them to the full five years, another federal attorney followed up by taking them back to court for a full sentence. The men had plea-bargained away their rights to appeal.

Dwight was found guilty of burning one acre of federal land – when a 2001 management fire to reduce overcrowding juniper – spilled over onto BLM-administered land.

Steven was charged and sentenced for burning that one acre plus about 138 more BLM-administered acres in a back burn to protect their ranch headquarters in 2006.

Steven originally served a year and a day, and Dwight three months in prison. A federal prosecutor later appealed that sentence and pursued – and won – the full five year sentence. They were taken back to prison to serve their five-year sentences in January of 2016. On July 10, 2018, President Trump provided them both with a full pardon.

Their arrest and imprisonment in 2016 inspired a protest that turned into an occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge near their hometown of Burns, Oregon. The occupation came to a dramatic close when Arizona rancher Lavoy Finicum was shot and killed by police officers and the other protesters were arrested when the caravan traveling to a meeting in John Day, Oregon was stopped by a police roadblock.

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