BURNS, Ore. (KOIN) — Dwight and Steven Hammond reported to prison in California on Monday after their case drew national attention from militia men who came out to support them.
Dwight Hammond, 73, and Steven Hammond, 46, were convicted of setting the fire on federal land 3 years ago and served time — the father 3 months, the son 1 year. But a federal judge ruled in October that their terms were too short under U.S. minimum sentencing law and ordered them back to prison for about 4 years each.
Harney County Sheriff David Ward said the Hammonds “turned themselves in at 1:37 p.m. (Monday) in accordance with the law” at the prison in California.
Their attorneys released a statement Monday morning that said, in part:
“The Hammonds will continue their legal efforts to renew their grazing permits. They will also pursue Executive Clemency. We hope that President Obama will agree with us and with the veteran judge who presided over the trial that the mandatory five-year minimum sentence is far too long for these ranchers.”
The men said they lit the fires on federal land in 2001 and 2006 to reduce the growth of invasive plants and protect their property from wildfires. They have said all along that they planned to return to prison.
On Saturday, around 100 protesters, some of them militia, marched through the streets of Burns to support the ranchers. Shortly after, members of the militia overtook the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Ammon Bundy — the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights — is among the people at the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Bundy says the federal government has expanded the refuge land at the expense of ranchers. “This facility actually has been a tool for the federal government to do all those things they have done to the Hammonds,” he said.
Asked how long the group will stay, Bundy told KOIN 6 News, “As long as is necessary.”
His father, Cliven Bundy was also locked in a legal dispute with federal officials in Nevada that developed into an armed confrontation. He remains hopeful officials will not try to forcibly remove the group.
“We hope they will not do that, because we pose no threat to anybody,” Bundy said.
Sources tell KOIN 6 News federal officials are working with local deputies to try to bring a “peaceful resolution” to the situation.
The FBI is the lead investigative agency for the case.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.