While the story of the militia occupying the National Forest HQ building is the main news story, it's important to understand the backstory. This is
based on how these people view the way their fellow citizens were treated by the Federal Government.
Vector 99 provided a link earlier to the actual transcript
sentencing hearing. Even at 34 pages, it's an interesting and relatively quick read.
First off, my opinion is that these fires might have gotten out of hand based on a
"hold my beer"
moment. These guys are your quintessential country boys who've
been farming and ranching for generations. It's a different mindset.
1. The transcript was of the initial sentencing hearing held before an old country judge who knew about his community and how business was done there.
He retired the day he issued his ruling.
2. The prosecutor asked the judge to delay his ruling. But that would have meant that another judge would have to adjudicate the sentence. So the
judge handled the entire hearing and pronounced their sentence in 1 day.
3. The defendants more-or-less acknowledged that they set a few fires. So they weren't really contesting the verdict.
4. The allegation that the defendants started the 2001 fire to hide their illegal hunting activity was shown to be unlikely given that they were
within their right to hunt on BLM land because of their use permit.
5. The grandson, who was only 13 at the time of the 2001 event, was the star witness for the prosecution. However his testimony was questionable due
to his age at the time of the event, conflict in his testimony with regard to the event, and the possibility he was seeking revenge for some
apparently brutal behavior of his uncle Steve Hammond with respect to a tattoo.
6. The main issue at this hearing was whether the minimum 5 year sentence would be imposed. The law was open to some interpretation and the judge, to
some extent, imposed his sentencing based on whether the acts were terrorism in nature.
7. The judge questioned the amount that the government calculated as the cost of their fire suppression activities. As someone who is familiar with
the community he realized that the 2001 fire burned up some sage brush and a few Juniper trees. And that by now nature had taken care of fixing
itself and no further costs were indicated.
8. They discussed at length some number of points, etc. etc. that had something to do with their sentencing.
9. He determined that Steve Hammond had some minor legal infractions in the past and that affected his sentence, making it longer than his father's
10. The judge ruled that he did not see any terrorist intent in the actions of the defendants. He ruled that the spirit of the immense
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
did not prescribe the minimal 5 year sentence for infractions of the type that the
defendants were convicted.
11. The Court ordered Dwight Hammond to 3 months in prison, $200 fine, 3 years probation.
12. The Court ordered Steven Hammond to 12 months in prison, $200 fine, 3 years probation.
Everybody seemed to be okay with this except the Federal Prosecutor Frank Papagni. Apparently he appealed the sentencing to a higher court that
agreed with him that the actions of the Hammonds rose to the level of terrorism and thus sentenced them to the minimum 5 year sentence.
Regular folks are upset about this because nobody believes these good old boys are terrorists. The prison sentences and fines will essentially
bankrupt their business. Without their men, Steven's wife and Dwight's wife (who's 74) will have to manage the business without them for the next 5
years. The vindictiveness of the prosecutor went far beyond what was necessary for this conviction.
Now here's where I have to check to make sure that I'm properly interfacing to reality-space. I'm almost ready to believe that I somehow woke up in
Bizarro World. With respect to this particular case, I'm on the same side as Cliven Bundy.
I can't even believe I just said that...