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EXCLUSIVE: Oregon ranch family to file last-ditch 'government redress' measure to resolve jail resentencing as militia units asked to prepare

Hammond Family

(NaturalNews) Militia and patriot organizations are preparing to deliver a "redress of government" document to state and county officials in Oregon, asking that they intervene to prevent a father and son from having to return to federal prison on "terrorist" arson charges, sources have confided to Natural News.

Meanwhile, as noted in a blog post at the site Freedom Outpost, a "Level 2 alert" has gone out from supporters of Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son Steven Hammond, 46, to unnamed militia groups, instructing them to be ready to "deploy" in an effort "to defend" them "against tyrannical Feds who label them terrorists."

The redress stems from a 2012 conviction of both men, who were charged under a federal antiterrorism statute, with committing arson on federal land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. Both were charged in connection with a 2001 fire known as the Hardie-Hammond Fire, in the Steen Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area, which burned some 138 acres of public land, according to various published reports.

In addition, reports said, a court convicted Steven Hammond of arson in 2006 for starting a back fire, after a lightning storm started several fires near the Hammond property; Steven Hammond said he started the back fires in an attempt to save the ranch's winter feed.

Other reports said that both fires were started on the Hammond's property, as well as on lands which the Hammonds had leased for grazing rights – but none of that swayed federal prosecutors or the court, both of which maintained that it was unlawful to purposely burn federal land, even if it was being leased.

Double jeopardy?

When the Hammonds were sentenced, their attorneys argued that the federal five-year mandatory sentence was unconstitutional under provisions of the Eighth Amendment; the trial court agreed, and imposed sentences that were well below the five-year mandatory. Dwight Hammond was sentenced to three months in prison; Steven Hammond was sentenced to one year; and both served their terms.

However, prosecutors in the case, upset by what they considered a breach of law, appealed the sentences to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed, and thus vacated the original sentences, while ordering a lower court to re-sentence the pair. In October, Chief U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken imposed the mandatory five years – minus time already served – on both men.

"Congress sought to ensure that anyone who maliciously damages United States' property by fire will serve at least five years in prison," said Acting U.S. Attorney Billy Williams at the time. "These sentences are intended to be long enough to deter those like the Hammonds who disregard the law and place fire fighters and others in jeopardy."

'I don't think that's what Congress intended'

Friends of the family note that the Hammonds and the BLM in particular have been at odds before. Many believe that the charges are a form of federal retribution, especially since they were brought more than a decade after the first fire.

They also note that there are a number of other problems regarding the sentencing, which was done under Sect. 708 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which calls for arson, as defined under the law, to be punishable by imprisonment "for not less than 5 years and not more than 20 years, fined under this title, or both." For one, the original sentencing judge, Michael Hogan – now retired – reduced the Hammonds' sentences because he did not believe that they had acted with the malicious intent of terrorists.

"Out in the wilderness here, I don't think that's what Congress intended," the judge said, as reported by Oregon Live. "I am not supposed to use the word 'fairness' in criminal law. I know that I had a criminal law professor a long time ago yell at me for doing that. And I don't do that. But this – it would be a sentence that would shock the conscience to me."

"I find it incredible that the government would want to try these ranchers as terrorists," added Barry Bushue, the longtime president of the Oregon Farm Bureau. "Now is where the rubber meets the road. Right now is when the public should absolutely be incensed. And the public, I think, should be fearful."

Also, friends of the family note that both Dwight and Steven agreed in a plea deal that they would not seek to appeal the 2012 ruling. Both men served their sentences and were released. But now the federal government, after it appealed, sought to jail them again, this time for the longer mandatory minimum under the law.







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