President Trump Pardons Cattle Ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond

Justin Sullivan  Getty Images North America

Justin Sullivan Getty Images North America

In a move that sends a "very friendly message to some very risky people", President Donald Trump on Tuesday granted full pardons to Dwight and Stephen Hammond, the father-son team of OR ranchers whose 2012 conviction for arson inspired the right-wing Bundy militia's armed takeover and month-long occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016.

The two OR ranchers were imprisoned in 2012 for arson, in a fire that encroached on Federal lands, and the incident is commonly viewed as a precursor to the Bundy family's infamous stands against the government.

In 2014, Ammon Bundy and his father Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher, were involved in an armed standoff with federal agents trying to confiscate the father's cattle for his refusing to pay fees for grazing on public land.

Prosecutors won an appeal and the Hammonds were resentenced in October 2015 to serve the mandatory minimum.

In announcing the pardons White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders dubbed the appeal from prosecutors "overzealous", calling the sentencing "unjust".

The armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in remote southeast OR followed a judge's ruling sending Dwight Hammond and his son Steven back to prison to serve longer terms after their initial release from shorter sentences.

The White House noted that Dwight Hammond, 76, had already served about three years behind bars and that his son Steven, 49, had served almost four years in prison. Dwight Hammond has served about three years of his sentence and Steven Hammond has served about four of his.

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They have also paid $400,000 to the U.S.to settle a related civil suit.

The pair were convicted in 2012 of intentionally and maliciously setting fires on public lands.

Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the environmental group Center for Western Priorities, argued in a statement that by pardoning the Hammonds, Trump has "sided with lawless extremists who believe that public land does not belong to all Americans".

"I am not going to apply the mandatory minimum ... because, to me, to do so under the 8th Amendment would result in a sentence which is grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses here", explained trial Judge Michael Hogan. A representative of that office within the Justice Department said he's "expecting the Hammonds to get out today", Matasar said.

The OFB, which has advocated on the Hammonds' behalf, said on Tuesday that their punishment was a case of "prosecutorial overreach and bureaucratic vendetta". One of the occupiers, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, was shot dead by Oregon State Police during the takeover.

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.

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