I rarely watch television news but I catch snippets here and there in public places. The coverage of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge takeover by an armed militia is obviously a hot infotainment item. Regarding the sentences of Steven and Dwight Hammond I keep hearing something along the lines of "the judge decided they didn't spend enough time in prison." This is a complete misrepresentation that does nothing more than serve as more fodder for the anti-government movement.
The Hammonds were convicted of violating 18 US Code Section 844(f)(1), which states.
Whoever maliciously damages or destroys, or attempts to damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, vehicle, or other personal or real property in whole or in part owned or possessed by, or leased to, the United States, or any department or agency thereof, or any institution or organization receiving Federal financial assistance, shall be imprisoned for not less than 5 years and not more than 20 years, fined under this title, or both.
The District Court judge decided five years imprisonment was cruel and unusual punishment and gave them much shorter sentences. The government appealed and the Ninth Circuit held that the judge could not violate the statute and give a shorter sentence. They found for the government and instructed the District Court judge to give the sentence as required by the statute.
So a judge didn't decide the Hammonds didn't spend enough time in prison. A judge decided not to apply the mandatory minimum sentence as required by law. A panel of judges determined he cannot do that and, regardless of the District Court judge's concerns about cruel and unusual punishment as addressed by the 8th Amendment, cited numerous cases where the Supreme Court upheld similar and harsher sentences for what would appear, at face value, to not be violations that warranted such punishment.
And Congress decided five years of imprisonment was the minimum sentence.
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