The father-son duo are cattle ranchers and were convicted in 2012 of committing arson on federal lands in Oregon.
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday pardoned OR cattle ranchers Dwight Hammond and his son after both were convicted on arson charges, sparking the 2016 occupation of a wildlife refuge, according to a White House statement. "As ranchers across eastern OR frequently tell me, the Hammonds didn't deserve a five year sentence for using fire as a management tool, something the federal government does all the time".
The move Tuesday came years after the convictions of father Dwight and son Steven Hammond, whose case became a rallying cry for those who oppose federal control of public lands.
Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Walden of OR, who lobbied the White House for the pardon of the Hammonds, said Trump's decision was "a win for justice, and an acknowledgement of our unique way of life in the high desert, rural West".
The Hammonds were released Tuesday from a federal prison in California.
Earlier in the day, Steven Hammond and his father Dwight stepped from a private jet and into the arms of family members at a municipal airport outside the huigh desert community of Burns. Following an appeal by prosecutors, a different judge ordered the men back to prison to serve the full five years, sparking protests and the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
"Witnesses at trial, including a relative of the Hammonds, testified the arson occurred shortly after Steven Hammond and his hunting party illegally slaughtered several deer on BLM property".
The pardon is raising concerns that it will encourage others to actively oppose federal control of public land, which is a sensitive issue in the U.S. West where the federal government owns nearly 50 percent of the land.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who represents the area that includes the Hammonds' ranch, cheered Trump's pardon as a win against federal overreach. They engaged in an armed standoff with federal authorities, although the Hammonds turned themselves over to authorities to serve the additional time and did not heed the Bundys' call to resist.
The White House statement said that at "the Hammonds" original sentencing, the judge noted that they are respected in the community and that imposing the mandatory minimum, 5-year prison sentence would "shock the conscience" and be "grossly disproportionate to the severity' of their conduct".
The perceived unjust sentence for the Hammonds inspired Ammon Bundy to lead an armed standoff in early 2016, when a group of armed men broke into the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
Lucas, the multimillionaire oil magnate and backer of the Indianapolis Colts, and Pence, an IN native, have known each other for a long time, Duquette said.
A member of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters walks to one of it's buildings, January 4, 2016, near Burns, Oregon.
Trump in late May pardoned Dinesh D'Souza, a conservative pundit convicted of campaign finance crimes.
A Hammond family statement said the pardons should "help signal the need for a more measured and just approach by federal agents, federal officers, and federal prosecutors - in all that they do", reported the Oregonian.
Cliven Bundy said he was glad Trump pardoned the Hammonds.