President Donald Trump on Tuesday granted pardons to father-and-son cattle ranchers in southeastern Oregon who were sentenced to serve prison time on two separate occasions for the same charges of arson on public lands.
The return to prison of Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond helped spark the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016.
In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said an "overzealous appeal" of the Hammonds's original sentences during the Obama administration, which sent them back to prison, was "unjust."
"The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community, and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement, and farmers and ranchers across the West," Sanders said, adding: "Justice is overdue."
The Hammonds were convicted of crimes that require a mandatory minimum jail sentence of five years in prison under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. A judge, however, initially gave Dwight Hammond three months and his son Steven Hammond a year and a day behind bars.
The government won an appeal over the Hammonds' sentences in 2015, and the two men were resentenced to serve out the remaining years of a five-year minimum.
Their convictions have drawn sharp rebukes from the local community amid allegations that the family was aggressively prosecuted using anti-terrorism statutes because they were outspoken about public land use in rural Oregon.
News media outlets in the state - including the Oregonian - have published editorials advocating for a presidential pardon, seeking clemency for the two men.
In her statement, Sanders characterized the arson as "a fire that leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land."
She noted that Dwight Hammond is 76 and has served about three years in prison and that Steven Hammond is 49 and has served about four years.
John Wagner is a national reporter who leads The Post's new breaking political news team. Leah Sottile in Portland, Oregon contributed to this report.