The Bend, Oregon, Hammond family is no stranger to the government. Father and son Dwight and Steven Hammond have been on opposite sides of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management for various offenses dealing with their cattle ranch as early as the 1980s. (Here is a long history of the Hammonds’ and government’s interactions). Back then it was about the government building a fence that would interfere with grazing and water. The latest offenses have to do with the Hammonds being convicted of arson for allowing fires they set on their property, meant to kill invasive plant species, to creep onto public land and destroy upwards of 130 public acres on one occasion.
In the arson incidences, father and son were arrested, went to trial, and agreed to a plea agreement as the jury deliberated. The federal judge sentenced Dwight to three months, and Steven to one year and a day. They have already completed their sentences. The problem was that under the federal sentencing rules there is a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for the offense of arson, and it carries with it the designation of “terrorist.” The trial judge felt this particular sentence was too harsh in these circumstances to warrant five years. The government appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (after they had already served their sentences) and won.
The trial judge is now under instructions to resentence the Hammonds in accordance with the guidelines. In this case, since the Hammonds have already served their sentences, this will mean they will have to go back to jail to serve substantially longer sentences (with good time each will have to serve a total of about four and a quarter years). Dwight is 74, and Steven is 46.