Assistant Director of Communications, FAMM
Armed protesters continue to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge building near Burns, Oregon. Although much of the media’s attention has focused on the protester’s anti-government political views, including their criticism of federal land management, the protests were sparked by the imposition of federal mandatory minimum prison sentences on ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond.
Kevin Ring, FAMM director of strategic initiatives, is available to explain why the mandatory minimum sentences imposed on Dwight and Steven Hammond upset the local community and violate, as all mandatory minimum sentencing laws do, the fundamental American principle that the punishment should fit the crime. In a statement released today, Mr. Ring said:
In 2012, a seasoned federal judge, appointed by a Republican president, imposed prison sentences on two Oregon ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, which the community largely accepted. He crafted their individualized sentences only after sitting through a trial in which all the unique and relevant facts of the offenses were discussed and after a sentencing hearing in which all of the unique and relevant facts about the convicted offenders were considered. If this were how our criminal justice system worked, we might not be experiencing the protests we see today in Oregon – or, perhaps, the protests we have seen in other communities that, frankly, bear a heavier burden due to federal mandatory minimum sentences. But, because the judge ignored the five-year mandatory minimum sentence required by Congress, the government successfully appealed. The Hammonds were ordered to return to prison today, a decision that sparked the current protest.
Federal mandatory minimums once again have destroyed a local community’s ability to hold its citizens accountable. A one-size-fits-all federal prison sentence, passed by a Congress that arrogantly believes it can foresee all the circumstances in which its punishments might apply, was used to send the Hammonds to prison for a minimum term of five years each. The Republican-appointed judges who oversaw their trials had rejected the five-year prison terms as grossly disproportionate to their crimes. Alas, his knowledge and expertise are irrelevant. The 535 individuals who served in Congress 20 years ago, who know nothing about the ranchers’ case, fixed their sentence – and stoked a community’s outrage. Congress should repeal federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws now.
Before joining FAMM, Mr. Ring spent 20 years working in conservative politics. He began his career in Washington, DC as a legislative aide on Capitol Hill. During his tenure, he served as counsel to the Senate Judiciary’s Constitution, Federalism, and Property Rights Subcommittee under the leadership of future US Attorney General John Ashcroft. He also served as executive director for the Republican Study Committee, the largest member organization in the US House of Representatives. He has testified about sentencing reform before Congress and appeared on numerous national television and radio programs.
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