PROSECUTOR AT CENTER OF HAMMONDS' CASE FACING SCRUTINY
Yesterday, we told you about the case of Dwight and Steven Hammond, who have been convicted of eco-terrorism and sentenced to five years in federal prison for setting what they call preventative fires on their land which eventually, and unintentionally, spread to federal land. There is no shortage of controversy in this case, mostly centering around the federal government’s motives in bringing the charges and the prosecution’s decision to challenge the initial sentence handed out by the trial judge. At trial, U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan felt the mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for the case were unduly harsh and handed out a lighter sentence. Arguing that Hogan’s sentencing decision did not meet the mandatory minimums laid out in statute, the federal government was able to convince a federal appellate court to overturn Judge Hogan’s sentencing and re-sentence the Hammonds to 5 years. Even though the Hammonds had already served their original sentences, they will now be re-incarcerated. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the Hammonds’ appeal, effectively upholding the appellate court’s imposition of the 5 year sentences. U.S. Attorney for the state of Oregon, Amanda Marshall, led the push for the more severe punishment. This story is fascinating (and unfortunate) for a variety of reasons, but so is the story of Marshall. On May 15th of last year, she gave notice of her resignation due to “health issues” affecting her work. According to a U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General internal review, there may have been more at play. Their office was reviewing Marshall for “erratic behavior involving a subordinate.” Sources say that she constantly texted and emailed (and allegedly stalked) Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Kerin, her subordinate, who in turn filed a hostile workplace environment complaint against Marshall. This was not be the first time her professionalism and qualification for the job would be called into question. Amanda Marshall had previously worked at a child advocacy legal position at the Oregon Department of Justice, a job that many feel did not qualify her to be a federal prosecutor. In the case of the Hammonds, this inexperience and questionable mental stability may have played a role in appeal for re-sentencing and push for harsher punishment. Marshall and federal attorney Frank Papagni called to the stand Dusty Hammond, Dwight’s grandson, who testified that Steven told him to start the fire. From the American Conservative:
“However, the testimony of Dwight’s estranged grandson, Dusty Hammond, who was 13 at the time of the fires, and was 24 when he testified, was permitted. Dusty had been having mental problems for some time, and the judge himself admitted that the grandson’s testimony was “unreliable.” Dusty’s testimony was the basis for the government’s assertion that the first fire was started in order to cover up evidence of poaching on federal land: he claimed that he was told to start a fire.”
Observers have questioned whether or not Marshall’s state of mind impacted her decisions in the Hammond case. The Daily Caller speculates:
“It’s unclear if Marshall’s erratic behavior had any effect on the Hammonds’ prosecution, but it will likely raise questions about the rare decision by federal prosecutors to push for Dwight and Steven to be reincarcerated.”
Amanda Marshall was supposed to uphold and pursue justice as a federal prosecutor; whether or not she was up to the task remains uncertain, and that potentially cost both her and the Hammond family much more than they deserved.