Though they aren’t part of the armed group which has occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, Dwight and Steven Hammond are essential to understanding the action currently underway. So who are the Hammonds?
The Motive Behind The Militia Actions
The militia members who have occupied the wildlife refuge–including members of the rabidly anti-government Bundy family–have cited the fact that Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted of arson on federal land as one of the main reasons for their misguided anger. The Hammond’s were recently sentenced to five years of incarceration for their crime, and fellow militiamen feel that penalty is excessive.
Many on the far right have trumpeted the belief that the Hammond’s received too harsh of a sentence, but in light of the fact that federal mandatory minimums were in play with this case, it seems ridiculous for these naysayers to complain. Perhaps they should get onboard the national movement to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences. And if they think the Hammond’s are being harshly treated, one wonders how they feel about minorities, who are routinely sentenced to 20 or 30 year terms on drug charges as part of the “War on Drugs.”
The Arson Charges
According to prosecutors, in 2001 several members of the Hammond family set fire to federal land “less than three hours after Steven Hammond illegally shot several deer on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. The fire, “consumed 139 acres of public land and destroyed all evidence of the game violations.”
The government also contends that three men were camped nearby when the Hammond’s started these fires, and that both Dwight and Steven knew about the presence of these campers when they decided to start the fires, potentially threatening lives.
The second fire, for which the Hammond’s were convicted, took place in 2006. Steven Hammond maintains that this was a preemptive burn to prevent an unrelated wild fire from spreading to the Hammond Ranch. However, at the time he set this fire, the Bureau of Land Management had imposed a “burn ban” to protect firefighters who were trying to stop the spreading wild fire. A second fire, such as the one set by Steven Hammond, could have easily spread and endangered the firefighters.
Child Abuse Allegations
D.H. Hammond testified that after the first fire, his father Dwight told him:
‘Dwight told me to keep my mouth shut, that nobody needed to know about the fire, and they didn’t need to know anything about it.’
D..H Hammond also said he feared Steven and other members of the family, and with good reason: In 2004, D.H. told a sheriff’s deputy about several instances of physical abuse. In one instance, Steven (who is D.H.’s uncle) allegedly punched D.H. and knocked him to the ground. He also reportedly “took [D.H.’s] face and rubbed it into the gravel” during an argument.
Also, D.H. said he once used a paper clip to carve the letter “J” into one side of his chest and the letter “S” onto the other side. When he found out, Steven allegedly “told him that he was not going to let [D.H.] deface the family by carving on himself.” D.H. said that Steven used sandpaper to remove the carved letters from D.H.’s chest — sanding on his bare skin for at least five minutes. Steven also allegedly told D.H. that “he would filet the initials off” his chest if the sandpaper didn’t work.
So ask yourself a question, and be honest: Are these the kind of people you would want as neighbors? And would you take control of a federal building in order to defend these felonious bags of crap?