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Old 11-30-2015, 02:26 PM
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Default Update: Oregon Ranchers face added jail time for BLM fire


An eastern Oregon family with a long history in ranching is fighting to keep its cow/calf operation afloat against an onslaught of blows from the federal government. Two members of the Hammond family have been charged under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 for starting two range fires that ended up on federal land.

One of the fires, set in 2001, was a prescribed burn on Hammond’s private property; a routine rangeimprovement practice. The other fire, set on Hammond’s private property in 2006, was a back-burn intended to protect the ranch’s winter pasture from a lightening fire on adjacent federal land. Combined, the two fires burned about 140 acres of federal land. Now, although two Hammond family members have already done time in federal prison for setting these fires, they are facing a resentencing—now scheduled for late October—that could land them back in prison.

The Hammonds hold grazing rights on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and own private grazing acres intermingled with BLM land in the Steens Mountains. For 45 years, the Hammonds have used their BLM grazing rights and private property to run a successful operation. But now, their operation is being threatened not only by criminal and civil charges brought by the federal government, but with the loss of their grazing permits, as well. The BLM has refused to renew their grazing permits for two years running.

Although the family has refrained from making a public splash, the story is slowly getting out. Court documents are beginning to circulate. Those documents paint a picture of a family that serves on the local school board, volunteers in community clubs and counsels, and donates time, money and meat each year to local youth organizations and senior groups. District Court Judge Michael Hogan, the federal judge who first saw their case, went on record calling the Hammonds “the salt of their community.

The fires

Why did Hammonds start the fires? According to court documents, the 2001 “Hardie-Hammond” fire was set under a long-standing plan between Hammonds and their BLM range conservationist to burn off invasive species on that section. They had called the BLM at noon that day to see if burning was permitted. After being told there was no burn ban in effect, the Hammonds told the BLM that they would be setting a fire on that section.

The fire later spread to approximately 139 acres of public land, land that happened to be one of Hammond’s grazing allotments. The Hammonds presented evidence that the spread onto public land was not intentional. However, back in 1999, a similar scenario had occurred (a prescribed burn on their land spread to public land), and the Hammonds had been warned that they would face serious consequences should it happen again. As an aside, according to the BLM itself, the 2001 Hardie-Hammond fire had, in fact, “improved range conditions” on the public lands.

The 2006 “Krumbo Butte” fire was started by lightening on public land adjacent to Hammond’s private land, where they grow their winter feed. Hammonds set a backfire that successfully kept the Krumbo Butte fire from burning a large portion of their private land. Their backfire burned about one acre of federal land.

Years later, BLM pressed charges for the above-mentioned fires, citing endangerment of human lives and damage to federal property. However, the district court found that no one had been endangered by the fires, and that the fires had caused minimal damage. In fact, the court found, the fire had arguably increased the value of the land for grazing.

Original jail sentence

Dwight and Steven Hammond (father and son operators of the family ranch) admitted to having started the above fires. In determining the Hammonds’ sentences, Judge Hogan had decided that applying the “mandatory minimum” of five years cited in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act would “shock the conscience…” He referenced the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which states, “Excessive bail shall not be required…nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

To call for five years’ imprisonment, he said, “would result in a sentence which is grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses here…” He said that Hammonds’ actions “could not have been conduct intended under [the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act]…” Judge Hogan used his discretion under the Eighth Amendment to sentence Dwight (now 74) to three months in prison, followed by three years’ “supervised release.” Dwight’s son Steven (45), father of three, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison—also to be followed by three years’ “supervised release.” The men served their sentences starting in 2013.

Their firearms were taken, as was Dwight’s pilot’s license.

Back to prison?

Not satisfied by Judge Hogan’s reasoning or sentencing decisions, the federal government is now coming back for more: It wants the men to serve at least five years’ time. The government appealed the judge’s decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and that court agreed that Judge Hogan’s ruling must be remanded back to another judge. The Hammonds appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of overturning the Ninth Circuit decision, but their case was not taken up by the high court.

Thus, the case is now in the hands of Chief Judge of the District Court of Oregon, Judge Ann Aiken. She will decide whether to institute the five-year minimum or more. The resentencing hearing, once scheduled for July 9, has been delayed to late October 2015.

Meanwhile, on the civil side, a wholly separate civil case is being considered. The ranch is also paying $400,000 as part of a settlement agreement with BLM for the alleged costs of fighting fires for which BLM claims the Hammonds are responsible. If the Hammonds have to sell part of their ranch to make the payment, BLM managed (as part of the settlement agreement) to get first option to buy.

Meanwhile, due to BLM’s refusal to renew the family’s grazing permits, the Hammonds have had to find alternative feed for their cattle for large parts of the year, all while working to come up with the $400,000 settlement sum. Hammonds own grazing preferences and hold an associated permit on the BLM land. What’s more, they own private property intermingled with the BLM land. This two-year denial of their grazing permits has preventing them from using their grazing rights and private land.

After a “45-year record of exemplary stewardship” on Hammonds’ part, the family’s counsel wrote, BLM’s refusal of permits is an act of “zeal,” an effort to “make an example of” the family. The Hammonds are currently appealing to get their permits reinstated.

“The public has an interest in maintaining and stabilizing the livestock operations that are dependent upon the public lands,” said the Hammonds’ appeal. “However, contrary to this interest, the… BLM Decision destabilizes [Hammonds’] current livestock operation which is dependent upon the public lands…” Watch for updates on both the criminal and civil aspects of the Hammond family’s story in future editions.

–Reprinted with permission from the Western Livestock Journal
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Old 11-30-2015, 02:46 PM
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Default Re: Ranchers face added jail time for BLM fire


Steve Hammond

A federal judge in Eugene, Ore., gave the father and son credit for time served but ordered them to serve the remainder of their mandatory five-year sentences for burning BLM rangeland.

EUGENE, Ore. — A father and son who raise cattle in Eastern Oregon are headed back to federal prison for committing arson on public land.

Dwight Lincoln Hammond, 73, and his son, Steven Dwight Hammond, 46, were sentenced on Oct. 7 to five years in prison for illegally setting fires on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property near Diamond, Ore.

The ranchers had already served shorter sentences because the federal judge originally overseeing their case said the five-year minimum requirement “would shock the conscience.”

The Hammonds were subject to re-sentencing because the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out those original prison terms for igniting fires in 2001 and 2006 as too lenient.

Previously, U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan, who is now retired, found that a five-year term would violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment because it’s “grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses here.”

Dwight Lincoln Hammond, who was only convicted of the 2001 fire, received three months in prison, while his son was sentenced to one year, followed by three years of supervised release for each man.

Federal prosecutors challenged those sentences, and the 9th Circuit agreed that judges don’t have the “discretion to disregard” such requirements.

The appeals court rejected claims by the ranchers’ defense attorney that the federal arson statute was intended to punish terrorism, rather than burning to remove invasive species or improve rangeland.

At the Oct. 7 re-sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken said the ranchers cannot disregard the law in regard to setting fires on BLM property.

“You don’t have the right to make decisions on public lands when they’re not yours,” she said.

Aiken compared the situation to “eco-terrorism” cases in which activists damaged property in reaction to environmental decisions with which they disagreed.

“They didn’t necessarily like how the government was handling things, either,” she said.

Similarly, people who violate hunting and fishing regulations are also subject to sanctions, Aiken said.

The rules are there for a reason,” she said.

Aiken said she would use discretion in sentencing the Hammonds if she could, but that wasn’t a possibility given the mandatory minimums and the jury’s decision to convict them of arson.

“It wasn’t a jury of people from Eugene, it wasn’t a jury of people from Portland. It was a jury of people from Pendleton — your peers,” she said.

Frank Papagni, the U.S. attorney who prosecuted the Hammonds, said the ranchers should be subject to the five-year sentence but disagreed with recommendations from the U.S. Probation Office that they receive even longer sentences.

The U.S. Probation Office said that Dwight Hammond should serve five years and three months, while Steven Hammond should serve six year and six months years.

Papagni said those enhanced sentences were inappropriate because the fires didn’t directly endanger the lives of nearby firefighters and hunters.

Nonetheless, the five-year terms are appropriate for the Hammonds’ actions, he said.

“These grazing leases don’t give them the exclusive right to use these lands,” Papagni said. “It doesn’t give them the right to burn the property. It’s not theirs.”

Attorneys for the Hammonds did not object to the five-year sentences in light of the 9th Circuit ruling, but asked that they receive credit for time served.

Aiken agreed to that request and said she would recommend both men serve their time together at the federal prison in Sheridan, Ore.

Before the sentencing, the Oregon Farm Bureau tried to convince the BLM to drop the arson charges against the Hammonds and replace them with charges that would not require a mandatory minimum sentence, said Dave Dillon, the organization’s executive vice president.

When that route did not yield the desired results, the organization decided to circulate a “Save the Hammonds” petition that has been signed by about 2,400 people.

“We did not make the progress we thought we should, so we’re taking a more public approach,” Dillon said.

Dillon said he recognized that the Hammonds faced slim chances of receiving less than five years, given the 9th Circuit’s ruling, but said he hoped the petition may convince the Obama administration to grant them clemency.

Not only have both men served time in federal prison, but the BLM has refused to renew their grazing rights for two years, he said.

The BLM likely does not subject its own employees to arson charges when they’ve made mistakes during prescribed burns, so the punishment for the Hammonds was excessive, Dillon said.

To treat them as terrorists, we think, is horribly unjust and secondly, hypocritical,” he said. “Why does the federal government need to get more?”
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Old 11-30-2015, 02:50 PM
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vorlos vorlos is offline
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Default Re: Ranchers face added jail time for BLM fire

In 1978, Aiken married James Klonoski, a political science professor at the University of Oregon and one-time chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon. Klonoski died in January 2009.[5] They had a number of children together; one of them, Nick Klonoski, committed suicide using a suicide kit in 2011


Nicholas Klonoski

A memorial service will be at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 6, at Temple Beth Israel for Nicholas Joseph Aiken Klonoski of Eugene, who died Dec. 17. He was 29. The family chose not to list the cause of death. (SUICIDE KIT)

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Old 12-30-2015, 02:22 PM
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Default Re: Ranchers face added jail time for BLM fire


Militiamen, ranchers in showdown for soul of Burns

BURNS – The strangers carrying the whisper of danger arrived in the vast territory of the Harney Basin just before the holidays.

Ammon Bundy once helped his father repulse the government in an armed showdown on a Nevada desert. He was Tasered for his effort.

Ryan Payne, an electrician from Montana, joined that same standoff and boasted of organizing civilians into sniper squads that drew a bead on federal agents.

And not long ago, Jon Ritzheimer worried the FBI with his threatening rants against Muslims in Arizona and elsewhere.

Now, the men say, they are in Burns to help Dwight and Steven Hammond.

The Hammonds are father and son ranchers, due to report to federal prison on Monday. They were convicted in 2012 of arson for lighting public land on fire adjacent to their ranch land south of Burns. They have been imprisoned once and must return for an additional term after federal appellate judges said they had been illegally sentenced the first time.

Self-styled patriots and militiamen gathering in Burns don't want that to happen, declaring the Hammonds' imprisonment illegal under the U.S. Constitution.

They have latched on to the Hammonds as their latest cause to stand against the federal government.

"I am here now trying to empower and motivate the people of this community to take a stand against tyranny and show them that I will gladly stand with them," Ritzheimer said.

The Hammonds don't want to be part of the outsiders' cause, and neither do many in Harney County.

But that hasn't stopped the strangers from summoning help from militia groups across the country. They are vague about their intention and their plans, unsettling the community (LOSS OF CONSTITUTION AND TYRANNY DOESN'T, OF COURSE, 'UNSETTLE THE COMMUNITY') and putting law enforcement on edge. The militia plan a rally and a parade on Saturday, circling the county courthouse that houses the sheriff's office.

The militia members have been insisting that Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward create a sanctuary so the Hammonds will be immune from surrendering. Ward met with the militiamen and rejected that demand. The militia has since labeled him an "enemy of the people." Ward said he has received emailed death threats among thousands of messages from across the country regarding the Hammonds.

Two weeks ago, Bundy and Payne roused 60 or so local citizens to their cause at a community meeting. They rented the Memorial Building at the fairgrounds for the night. They taped themselves lecturing the locals on their rights, on the Constitution, and on their duty to protect themselves.

The Harney County situation is the second time this year Oregon has been the national rallying point for militias. Last spring, miners fighting with the Bureau of Land Management over paperwork outside Medford found themselves enveloped with militia defenders. The miners finally issued a plea for militia members to go home. The militiamen did – but only after claiming they beat back the government. An administrative law judge temporarily stopped BLM action against the miners.

But the activists carrying pocket editions of the Constitution with them to Harney County are better known for the spectacle in Nevada in spring 2014.

The BLM was the bogeyman there too.

Nevada showdown

Militiamen by the hundreds flowed to Nevada that year to help rancher Cliven Bundy. The BLM was corralling his cattle that it said were trespassing on public land. The agency said Bundy hadn't paid grazing fees for 20 years, amassing more than $1 million in bills.

Payne, an Army veteran, came to the rancher's defense. In later interviews, Payne said he was the "militia adviser" to Bundy. Payne helped array armed civilians against the federal agents.

"We had counter-sniper positions on their sniper positions. We had at least one guy—sometimes two guys—per BLM agent in there," Payne told a Montana weekly, the Independent. "If they made one wrong move, every single BLM agent in that camp would've died."

Ammon Bundy, Cliven Bundy's third son, was there too.

As the nation watched, the BLM called off the cattle collection and withdrew in the face of the armed militia. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups across the country, said in a 2014 report on the Bundy standoff that the government's retreat empowered the militiamen.

Ryan Lenz with the law center was on the ground in Nevada and later interviewed Payne for the report. Lenz said the Harney County development isn't surprising.

"What's happening is very much what everyone feared would happen in the aftermath of the Bundy standoff," Lenz said. "The rule of law was suspended with the barrel of a gun."(OR ENFORCED AT THE BARREL OF A GUN)

Aiding the Hammonds

Bundy and Payne say they met with both Dwight and Susan Hammond at their home in November. Bundy said he helped the ranchers move cows one day.

The Hammonds initially accepted the militia's offer of help to avoid prison, Bundy said. But the Hammonds changed their minds after being warned by federal prosecutors to stop communicating with the militia, Bundy wrote in a blog post.

The Hammonds declined interview requests and didn't respond to written questions about their dealings with the militiamen. A Boise lawyer representing the Hammonds said in a letter to the sheriff that Bundy didn't speak for the ranchers and that they intended to surrender as required.

Document: Hammond attorney letter

Bundy and Payne and their associates are persisting, though. They explain in deliberate, calm tones their reasoning.

The federal government claims title to most of the land in Harney County, the ninth largest county in the United States. Bundy and Payne maintain that Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution limits what the federal government can own, and that the government's claim to much of Harney County violates that limit. The federal government consequently has no authority to prosecute the Hammonds.

Bundy and Payne, who said he has moved to Harney County, have pressed the matter on several fronts. They have insisted that Ward, the sheriff, protect the Hammonds. They have written other elected officials in the county and in Oregon asserting the same demand.

Some residents have shown interest in the group's cause.

Locals voted seven of their own onto a new Harney County Committee of Safety, including ranchers, a retired fire chief, and a tax preparer.

Payne and Bundy said the committee would decide how to address the Hammond conflict. But Bundy quickly created a website for the group and drafted a sharply-worded letter to the sheriff for the committee to issue.

Citizens on the committee said they authorized none of it.

Local dissent

Chris Briels, Burns fire chief for 24 years, said he was intrigued by the constitutional arguments raised by Payne and Bundy. But he said he also felt pushed too hard by Bundy to act. Briels said he is no anarchist.

The militia, Briels said, "seems like a bunch of people ready to shoot. I don't want that in my county. (NOT YOUR COUNTRY ANYMORE)

Melodi Molt, a rancher and former president of Oregon CattleWomen, joined Briels on the new committee. She's troubled by what's happened to the Hammonds – but also worried about what her community faces with the outsiders.

"We're not from the militia," said Molt. "We're not going to come in with guns and overthrow the government."(GOOD THING YOU DIDN'T FEEL THAT WAY IN 1776)

The state's largest agriculture associations have vigorously defended the Hammonds since they were charged but want no part of the brewing militia action.

"I don't think people lining up in front of them with weapons or any kind of threats are going to help the Hammonds at all," said Barry Bushue, Oregon Farm Bureau president. (WHAT'S GOING TO HELP THEM, THEN?)

Billy Williams, Oregon's U.S. attorney, has also weighed in. In a lengthy statement to the Burns Times-Herald, Williams explained why the Hammonds were prosecuted. He then warned: "Any criminal behavior contemplated by those who may object to the court's mandate that harms someone will not be tolerated and will result in serious consequences."

Document: Statement by U.S. Attorney Billy Williams

Payne and Bundy say it's up to local residents what happens next. If the locals decide to declare the county a sanctuary for the Hammonds, the militia is ready.

"We're sending the message: We will protect you," Payne said.

Such talk rattles the community, as has conduct locals blame on the strangers.

Tensions persist.

A Utah man tied to Bundy and Payne disrupted a state court session, insisting the judge empanel a special grand jury to investigate the Hammond matter. Federal employees report they have been followed around town and to their homes. Payne said no one in his group has followed federal employees. But he acknowledged knocking on the front door of a home featuring a handmade "Go Home Bundys" sign. Payne said he wanted to understand the homeowner's concerns.

Signs on street poles pronounce, "Militia go home!"

Others reply: "You are the militia."

One episode in particular has upset the community.

The sheriff said three militiamen and one woman, one with a gun strapped to his hip, engaged his 74-year-old mother and 78-year-old father at a yard sale being held at the American Legion. When the men criticized the sheriff, his mother bristled, and said she didn't need their protection from the government.

Later, the men showed up at the sheriff's office to complain about the exchange involving his mother.

She had, they said, threatened them.
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