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Trump pardons Oregon ranchers at center of 40-day standoff

The father and son ranchers, whose re-arrest and imprisonment on arson charges after they'd served their sentences sparked the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, were pardoned Tuesday by President Donald Trump.

The president granted clemency for Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son Steven, 49, who were convicted of arson charges in 2012 and imprisoned.

The dozens of armed people who occupied the refuge near the Hammond ranch for 41 days said the Hammonds were victims of federal overreach. Prosecutors said in 2016 they set fires to cover up evidence of poaching.

"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", Trump continued.

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Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven Hammond were granted executive grants of clemency by Trump, according to a White House statement. The Hammonds could have faced less than a year in prison under a plea offer they declined, she said. Her office appealed the lighter sentences because she said the trial judge didn't have discretion to depart from a mandatory minimum sentence.

The Hammonds were sentenced to five years in prison in 2015 after being convicted of arson for a fire that prosecutors said was committed on federal land where they had grazing rights leased to them for cattle ranching. Most notably, members of another anti-government family, the Bundys, cited the Hammonds as their inspiration for facing down what they called an oppressive government when they occupied a national wildlife refuge in OR, setting up a weeks-long standoff that became front-page news in 2016. The two paid $400,000 to the Bureau of Land Management to settle a related civil suit.

"Our family is grateful to the president and all who worked to make this possible", the Hammond family said in a statement.

He has said he's considering thousands of other cases -famous and not.

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Ammon Bundy, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, speaks with reporters during a news conference at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, January 4, 2016, near Burns, Ore.

The Hammond family released a statement saying they agree with the White House that the appeal was "overzealous".

On Jan. 2, 2016, militants seized the headquarters of the wildlife refuge in Harney County to protest the Hammonds' prosecution and sentencing.

A full pardon grants broader absolution, which undercuts the dangerousness of setting fires and indicates that public land can be burned without effect, Weiss said.

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The occupation resulted in the death of one man, LaVoy Fincicum, who was shot and killed by Oregon State Police troopers when he drove his truck at a roadblock while trying to escape the refuge.

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