Re-incarcerating the Hammon’s


How is this not double jeopardy?

Dr. Harold Pease - Contributing Columnist



With the media so locked on “Donald Trump productions” for the last several months they missed a serious precedent setting double jeopardy violation of the Constitution last winter. Two men, father and son ranchers, are presently again sitting in jail for the same crime after having completed their sentences and been free for more than a year. Not for a new crime but because the Justice Department, thinking the sentences of a the previous district court not harsh enough, appealed to the U. S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which resentenced both to longer terms.

Both then were rearrested, reconvicted and reincarcerated because the federal government did not like the ruling of their own federal judge — and, again, this after the previous sentences had been served. How is this not double jeopardy? The Fifth Amendment to the Bill of Rights reads in part, “nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This cannot be allowed to stand or we all lose this part of the Constitution, left uncontested, past practice tends to set the new parameters making it so much more difficult to get back to the Constitution as designed.

This case has another strange twist. It allows someone adjacent to federal land that burns unwanted debris, the fire from which accidentally burns a portion of federal land, to be convicted as a terrorist with a mandatory five-year sentence. Dwight and Steven Hammond, law abiding, patriotic and model citizens in their community, are serving second sentences as terrorist for precisely this reason. Their 2001 control burn got out of control consuming, in addition to Hammond property, 150 acres of federal land. The burn, mostly grass, did not destroy actual property.

Judge Michael Hogan, understood and factored in the above conditions and offered leniency giving Dwight (74) three months and his son Steven (46) one year and one day. They also settled on paying $400,000 on firefighting expenses. But he felt that The Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, of which they were charged, which required a minimal sentence of 5 years in prison, defining the Hammon’s as terrorists, was grossly excessive thus violating Amendment 8 of the Bill of Rights, prohibiting “cruel or unusual punishment” because of the excessive length of time mandated and the “terrorist” label thereafter attached to the defendants. Thus the sentence of arson, rather than terrorist, as mandated by the faulty law, was rendered.

Undermining the authority of Judge Hogan a Ninth Circuit judge, despite the double jeopardy clause in the Fifth Amendment, reinstated the five-year sentence and the two were rearrested. It was Bureau of Land Management Field Manager and Refuge Manager for the Malheur Refuge, property adjacent to the Hammon’s, that filed the appeal. The Malheur Refuge would benefit because BLM had benefited from other ranches they had had a hand in forcing to sell, thus enlarging the Refuge, and they expected to do the same to the Hammond property.

The Hammon’s went back to prison peacefully and today are in a minimum-security facility in Los Angeles. If the government really thought that they were real terrorists they would never have given but minimum security. In their case the Obama Department of Justice denied justice and violated the Constitution in both the 5th and 8th Amendments. A law, in this case The Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, is never to trump the Constitution but has.

The event refueled the range war with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as hundreds, incensed by similar heavy handedness by federal agencies on properties all over the West, hoped for injustice exposed. Some few of these descended on Oregon taking over the Malheur Refuge and illegally occupied it for the next several months, which unfortunately provided the media with a story with far more drama than the “rancher squeeze” story. The Hammond’s were largely forgotten. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal, probably because of the Refuge Standoff, thus allowing the appellate court’s unconstitutional ruling to stand. This compounded the injustice.

The Hammon family experience with BLM tyranny is similar to that of Cliven Bundy whose Nevada Standoff, two years ago, got great publicity. Both families had been ranchers for generations long before the BLM (1946) existed. They were both survivalists from decades of federal government “rancher squeeze” since the 1970s. Part of the squeeze was to drastically reduce gracing permits for ranchers dependent upon them for their livelihood and significantly raise grazing fees for those still remaining. In both instances, and in hundreds more, ranchers were force to sell at fire sale prices and in these two instances the Hammon’s and the Bundy’s were essentially the last to stand. The Hammon’s differed only in that the BLM and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) coveted their property since the 1970s expecting to enlarge the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge with it, as they had the property of other ranchers that bordered them.

In the case of the Bundy’s only Article I, Section 8 clause 17 of the Constitution dealing with federal land has been violated. For the Hammon’s the same violations exist plus Amendment 8, “cruel and unusual punishment” and Amendment 5 being “subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb,” known commonly as double jeopardy. How can one serve a sentence and then be retried and given a larger sentence, but it happened.

To read more of Dr. Harold Pease’s weekly articles, visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.

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How is this not double jeopardy?

Dr. Harold Pease

Contributing Columnist

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