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A Harsh Toll: How Tough Mandatory Sentences Inspired Harney County Occupation


The biggest question of all is: Why were the Hammonds charged as terrorists? Is it because the BLM wants their land? I think it is obvious that is the case. The Hammonds are not terrorists. If anyone is a terrorist, it is the BLM and the prosecutors. – Shorty Dawkins

This article comes

by Jeff Manning

The seeds of this month’s insurrection at a Harney County wildlife refuge were planted in an unusual midnight deal struck in 2012 between prosecutors and Harney County ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond.

The long blood feud between the Hammonds and the government reached a surprise moment of consensus that night. After eight days of trial in a Pendleton courthouse on charges they had set illegal fires near their remote Eastern Oregon ranch, the parties agreed to abide by the jury’s partial verdict.

The jury informed the judge it had concluded that the Hammonds were guilty of two counts of arson. On seven other counts, the jury had voted to acquit or was deadlocked.

The Hammonds agreed to accept the partial verdict, accept Hogan’s sentence and to waive their rights to appeal. The two ranchers and their lawyers believed the U.S. Attorney’s office had done the same.

The deal blew up four months later after U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan refused to issue the five-year mandatory minimum sentence. Prosecutors immediately appealed, calling Hogan’s lighter prison sentences “illegal.”

The Department of Justice prevailed. The ranchers were ordered to return to prison to serve out their five-year terms.

The case made the Hammonds martyrs to an angry cadre of protesters, and the perceived government overreach inspired the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge south of Burns that has attracted worldwide attention.

Even as the occupation reaches day 15, several questions remain unanswered: Why did the government decide to charge the Hammonds under a terrorism statute? Why was it so fixated on a five-year sentence? Did prosecutors renege on a deal not to appeal the original sentence?

Read more here.


Shorty Dawkins



  1. The very first 2 sentences say it all. Lis Wiehl on Fox News’ Lou Dobbs pointed out, “The jury was never informed that they were being charged as Terrorists.”

    My opine–> It’s a travesty, miscarriage of justice, and reeks of corruption all the way through. God Bless the Protestors!

    1. Greg, thanks for pointing out these issues. People don’t realize the storyline is set before trial even begins, and by Judge, Prosecutor, and Defense Attorney

  2. Old White men riding to the rescue of their own value to America….
    Kind of sad watching them…..

  3. I can answer the question as to why the Hammond’s were “Charged As Terrorists”.

    If fact, they were charged under the applicable arson statue, that was enacted because the American people have become soft and cowardly, and cower and shake every time the terrorism dog whistle is blown by some politician or the media.

    The law came about over fears terrorists would use wildfires as a form of warfare. The politicians who enacted it are our representatives. WE let them do it. We practically begged them to do it. Because collectively, we are afraid of out own shadow. It was part of an anti-terrorism law that became embedded as the only available federal arson law, and thus the only law they could be prosecuted under.for the federal crime of arson. All you really need is an eager beaver federal prosecutor.

    Further, we are oh-so into mandatory minimum sentences. We Americans like to be tough on crime. The Hammond’s are no different that thousands of other inmates locked up with sentences that in no way fit the crime, because we tie the judges hands. And NOBODY is screaming bloody murder over mandatory minimums for ANY of them. The victims this time just happened to be white guys in cowboy hats.

    Why are the Hammond’s locked up?

    Take a good look in the mirror for the guilty party. Because it you, me, and everybody. Is there a single person here who ever stood in the way of mandatory minimums? Ever made a phone call, wrote a letter?

  4. The federal government gave you a gift I believe you should take advantage of. By convicting the Hammonds of terrorism they have set a court precedent (stare decisis) that can be used against them.
    Using the Hammond case as a precedent (stare decisis) a class action suit and charges should be filed against the BLM for domestic terrorism.

    The attention needs to be directed to the BLM’s long history of setting fires that have burned out of control consuming thousands of acres of private and public property. The millions of dollars in damage to structures, land, burned and maimed livestock, wild animals, and duress placed on families and communities is unacceptable.
    Charging the Hammond’s as terrorists is hypocritical when you take into account what the BLM has done. The BLM needs to be held accountable for their “terrorist” crimes against the public. Years after ranchers have been burned out the BLM has made no effort to compensate for the damages.

    Watch this video of U.S. Sen. John Thune Challenging the BLM for what they have done in his state.

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