[Rushtalk] Marine veteran Jon Hammar to be released from Mexico jail

Carl Spitzer Winblows at lavabit.com
Thu Jan 31 15:53:05 MST 2013

By Patricia Mazzei — The Miami Herald 

WASHINGTON — Jon Hammar, the Marine veteran from South Florida detained
for months in a Mexican border prison for bringing his
great-grandfather’s shotgun into the country, is expected to be released
Friday in what his mother calls a “Christmas miracle.’’

His mother, Olivia, said she and her husband were awoken by a 2:30 a.m.
phone call from Hammar’s defense attorney sharing the good news.
Hammar’s father, Jon, quickly found a flight to Texas.

“We made it from our house in Palmetto Bay to the airport in 11
minutes,” she told The Miami Herald. “This is our Christmas miracle.”

The elder Hammar will wait for his son, who has been held since August
in a prison in Matamoros, Mexico, across the border in Brownsville,
Texas. They will likely remain there for a few days, Olivia Hammar said,
because her son is interested in getting back the 1972 Winnebago motor
home — and some nine surfboards he was transporting — from Mexican

“It will be closure for him,” she said.

Hammar was arrested Aug. 13 when he and a fellow Marine veteran, who
were headed to Costa Rica to surf ,tried to cross into Mexico. Hammar
had been told by U.S. authorities he could declare a
six-decades-old .410 bore Sears & Roebuck shotgun at the border. The
firearm is suitable for shooting rabbits and birds.

But Mexican authorities dismissed Hammar’s U.S. registration papers for
the disassembled relic. Prosecutors charged him with a serious crime:
possession of a weapon restricted for use to Mexico’s armed forces.

Hammar was sent to the Matamoros prison, where, at one point, inmates
affiliated with local drug cartels called Hammar’s parents to try to
extort money from them.

U.S. officials intervened, and Hammar was separated from the general
inmate population but still spent much of his time chained to a bed to
keep him from fleeing.

McClatchy, The Herald’s parent company, first reported on Hammar’s
plight Dec. 6, when his family decided to go public with the case.
Lawmakers responded quickly. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat,
exhorted Mexico to release Hammar. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami
Republican and the family’s congresswoman, used her position as
chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to put pressure on
U.S. and Mexican authorities.

She lashed out at the Obama administration for what she said was a
failure to offer details on efforts to free Hammar and persuaded scores
of her congressional colleagues to sign letters to the State Department
and the Department of Homeland Security on Hammar’s behalf.

Ros-Lehtinen took to Twitter on Friday morning to publicize Hammar’s
imminent release after his mother called the congresswoman’s Washington

“We couldn’t believe it, but prayers and hard work really paid off,”
Ros-Lehtinen said. “It looks like we will have him home for Christmas.”

Nelson, whose office also spoke to Hammar’s mother, said an aide to a
legal representative of the Mexican attorney general’s office confirmed
the pending release. The U.S. Consulate is standing by to escort Hammar
back to the United States.

“No American should be in a Mexican jail for five months without being
able to have his case in front of a judge,” Nelson said. “We’re
grateful; this is a good Christmas present.”

Ros-Lehtinen, who held a press conference at her Miami office last week
with several dozen of Hammar’s family and friends, praised the community
for rallying to publicize his case. An online petition to free Hammar,
created by his younger sister, Katie, had more than 26,000 signatures as
of Friday morning. Earlier this week, Miami-Dade commissioners approved
a resolution, sponsored by Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, calling for
Hammar’s release.

The congresswoman also applauded the outgoing Mexican ambassador, who
was on vacation — and on his last week on the job before a new president
takes over — while dealing with the Hammar case.

“I said, ‘What a good way to end your tenure and a good way to start
with a new Mexican administration,’” Ros-Lehtinen said.

Hammar, 27, joined the Marines after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
He was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq before receiving an honorable
discharge in 2007 and later serving another four years on inactive

Upon his return, Hammar, a former lance corporal, was diagnosed with
post-traumatic stress disorder. He checked into a treatment center for
veterans in California and planned the surfing trip to Costa Rica as a
way to find peace, his family said. A lifetime surfer, he traveled with
some custom-made boards, including one engraved with the name of a
childhood friend who died in a motorcycle accident, according to his

Olivia Hammar said her son had spent the last few days sick with a
stomach bug.

“We’re worried about his reentry process,” she said “I don’t even know
that I’ve been able to process it yet... You don’t realize what a
physical toll fear takes on you until you have it continually, for
months at a time.” Tim Johnson of McClatchy's Mexico City bureau and The
McClatchy Washington bureau contributed to this report. 

Read more here:

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