Today, I obtained the following, which was published in the December 9, 2015, Burns Times Herald, in Burns, Oregon. The acting U.S. Attorney has issued a warning to any who may be in town as Steven and Dwight Hammond are carted off to jail, to watch their p’s and q’s and to not get in the way as ‘justice’ is carried out per the U.S. justice system, which he declares is the finest in the world. And in addition to these statements, he goes into a synopsis of what happened, to the Hammonds, according to court processes.
What strikes me as strange is why does the U.S. Attorney feel the need to publish this manifest in the sleepy little Oregon town of Burns. After all, if the Hammonds were convicted by a jury of their peers, and small towns being what they are, why the need to reinforce the history of the trial? Everyone knows what happened, or do they?There is no comment from the Hammonds here, or any spokesperson of the Hammonds. Could it be that there is more to the story? And why would the U.S. Attorney be anticipating any trouble as the Hammonds are sent to jail for a second time? Could it be that since facts of the incidents in question have seen some sunlight, maybe that light revealed other, pertinent facts regarding the situation? Wouldn’t it be prudent to reexamine the issues, rather than send two men to PRISON, for starting controlled, prescribed fires? And why, will someone please tell me WHY, the government went into the situation with the HEAVY HANDED CHARGES of the Anti Terrorism And Death Penalty Act? Could it be they wanted them to NOT have the right of Habeas Corpus? That would certainly do the trick, if so. Remember the Hammond ranch is surrounded on all sides by BLM or government owned land. Hmmm. Folks, there’s a lot more to this story than what is written below in the U.S. Attorney’s statement, and I fear there will be no one to be a voice for the Hammonds in seeking true, American justice.
As the Acting United States Attorney for the District of Oregon, I write to the citizens of Harney County to address ongoing attempts by outside individuals and organizations that are making statements and using social media to express views which are clearly contrary to what occurred publicly in an open courtroom. I understand that there are some individuals and organizations who object to the Hammonds returning to prison to serve the remainder of their sentences mandated by statute. I respect their right to peacefully disagree with the prison terms imposed. However, 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. The following is a summary of the facts in United States v. Dwight and Steven Hammond, including the actions and positions taken by this of ce throughout the course of the case.
Five years ago, a federal grand jury charged Dwight and Steven Hammond with committing arson on public lands, and endangering re ghters. The charges came after the Hammonds rejected an offer to settle the case by pleading guilty to lesser charges and sentences.
Three years ago, after a two-week trial in Pendleton, Oregon, a jury found 70-year old Dwight and his son, 43-year old Steven Hammond, guilty of committing arson on public lands in 2001. Steven Hammond was also found guilty of committing a second arson in 2006. They were found not guilty of other arson charges, and while the jury was deliberating on the remaining charges, the Hammonds negotiated for the dismissal of those charges and a promise from the U.S. Attorney to recommend the minimum sentence mandated by law. The Hammonds assured the trial judge that they knew the law required they serve no less than ve years in prison. The U.S. Attorney also agreed they should remain free until sentencing.
The Hammonds had long ranched private and public lands in Eastern Oregon. Although they leased public lands for grazing, they were not permitted to burn the lands without prior authorization from the BLM. In 1999, a BLM employee reminded Steven Hammond of this after he started a fire that escaped onto public land.
At trial, jurors heard from a hunting guide, a hunter and the hunter’s father, who saw the Hammonds illegally slaughter a herd of deer on public land. At least seven deer were shot with others limping or running from the scene. Less than two hours later, the hunting guide and the hunter and his father, were forced to abandon their campsite because a fire was burning in the area where the deer had been shot. The hunting guide’s testimony and photographs established fires were burning hours before Steven Hammond called the BLM and said he was going to do a burn of invasive species in the area.
A teenage relative, who was with the Hammonds in 2001 when those fires were set, told the jury that he was handed a box of “Strike Anywhere” matches, and Steven Hammond told him to drop lit matches on the ground so as to “light up the whole country on fire.” He did as instructed, and the resulting eight-to ten-foot flames spread quickly. Fearing for his life, he was forced to take shelter in a creek. The jury heard evidence that once back at the ranch, Dwight and Steven told him to “keep his mouth shut,” and that “nobody needed to know about the fire.” The resulting eight-to ten-foot fames spread quickly. Fearing for his life, he was forced to take shelter in a creek. The jury heard evidence that once back at the ranch, Dwight and Steven told him to “keep his mouth shut,” and that “nobody needed to know about the fire.” The fires destroyed evidence of the deer slaughter and took 139 acres of public land out of public use for two years.
The evidence at trial convinced the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the Hammonds were guilty of the federal crime of arson; that is, maliciously damaging United States property by fire. The jury was neither asked if the Hammonds were terrorists, nor were defendants ever charged with or accused of terrorism. Suggesting otherwise is simply flat out wrong.
The jury also found Steven Hammond guilty of committing a second arson in 2006.
That summer, BLM fire fighters were battling several significant fires caused by lightning strikes. The Harney County Fire Marshal imposed a burn ban, and a “red flag” warning was in effect. Despite the burn ban, and knowing that fire fighters were in the area, Steven Hammond set fires at night without notifying anyone. He did so to save his winter feed. After seeing the fires, the firefighters moved to a safer location. When confronted by a fire fighter the next day, Steven Hammond admitted setting the fires, and made no apology for doing so.
The crimes that the jury found the Hammonds committed carried five-year congressionally-mandated minimum sentences. In October 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Michael R. Hogan imposed sentences below what the law required. The U.S. Attorney’s Office appealed the sentences imposed by Judge Hogan because they were not the sentences mandated by Congress for the crimes committed. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, and reversed the Hammonds’ sentences. The cases were sent back to the District Court with the directive that the statute’s mandate be followed. The Supreme Court upheld the Ninth Circuit’s decision, and in October 2015, Chief Judge Ann Aiken imposed the five-year prison terms. The U.S. Attorney agreed to allow the Hammonds to self-surrender after the holidays.
Much has been said and written by persons who were not in the Pendleton courtroom during the trial or in Eugene during the sentencing hearings. Much of it is inaccurate. For example, the federal prosecutor has never called the Hammonds terrorists, an allegation made by some of the Hammonds’ supporters. As Acting U.S. Attorney, I do not consider them to be terrorists. At the sentencing hearings, the federal prosecutor described the Hammonds’ contributions to their community and urged the court not to impose the higher sentences recommended by the U.S. Probation office. The prosecutor also assured the court that the sentences mandated by Congress were neither cruel nor unusual given the seriousness of the crimes and the safety threat posed to the hunters (in 2001) and the fire fighters (in 2006). The Hammonds received a fair trial, they were found guilty in Pendleton, Oregon, by a jury of their peers, and they ultimately received lawful sentences mandated by Congress.
As Americans, we have the privilege of being served by the finest judicial system in the world. Despite suggestions to the contrary, what took place during this case was a process that followed the time-honored fundamental principles of the rule of law— from the investigation, negotiations, a public trial with the presentation of lawfully admitted evidence, the jury’s findings, judicial findings, appellate rulings, to the final imposition of sentence. We stand by the ultimate resolution of this case.
Army veteran and patriot, Ryan Payne, has responded to Mr. Williams statement. It does seem that there are citizens of Harney County who disagree with the treatment of the Hammonds and the courts sentencing.
A sincere thanks to Mr. Williams for his public threat towards Patriots. It is beneficial for The People that they are acutely aware of the oppression which their government is going to expand from the Hammonds to include anyone opposed to the unConstitutional decrees of the tyrannical and activist judiciary. We were aware of your position, but having made it publicly saves us the effort of having to frame it to The People. As I’ve spoken with the citizens of Harney County. I’ve found no one in agreement with the government’s decision and tyrannical overstep. Now the people of Harney County are aware that if they attempt to remedy their situation and form a barrier to prevent the assertion of an illegitimate authority that they will be punished swiftly. We need not attempt to convince them of your intent, for you have not minced words, and they are now aware.
As Patriots around the union become aware of your threats, I am certain they will be received with their intended message. If your goal is to provoke The People to break the chains of oppression, you are succeeding brilliantly.