Friday, December 14, 2012



Note: Some of you may have heard of this case already. We can look
forward to large increases in corruption. So be warned. Won't only
be firearms related. BTW, in the recent past, you needed documents
in advance from Mexican government, including hunting license, etc
and inspection by Mexican army. Working on what will be needed with
new administration.

After declaring rifle, U.S. man held in Matamoros prison
Posted: Saturday, December 8, 2012 10:50 pm | Updated: 7:53 pm, Sat
Dec 8, 2012.
Mark Reagan | The Brownsville Herald

All Johnny Hammar has is a Bible and faith.
The veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan was arrested on the Mexican side
of the Los Indios Free Trade Bridge in August for attempting to take
a decades-old shotgun into the country.
Johnny Hammar, 27, and his buddy Ian McDonough — both veterans —
planned to drive from their home in Miami, hugging the Gulf Coast and
surfing as they traveled until landing in Costa Rica, where Hammar
had surfed for his first three weeks out of the service, his mother
Olivia Hammar said.
A few days after the men's arrests, McDonough was released because
the gun wasn't his. Hammar remains imprisoned.
"Johnny acknowledged (to Mexican authorities) that the gun was his
family's gun," Olivia said, adding that it has been passed down
through the generations.
The gun is a .410 Sears & Roebuck shotgun that belonged to his great-
Now, sources say Hammar is being held in solitary confinement in a
Matamoros prison after cartel members began extorting his family.
After the American consulate became involved, he was removed from
general population, Olivia said.
"We started receiving extortion calls from cartel members who put him
on the phone," she said. "And they said, 'We need you to wire money,
and we're going to kill him if you don't.' They said, 'We've already
beat him up,'" Olivia said as tears choked her voice. "And he
(Johnny) said, 'You need to listen and do whatever they say.'"
Hammar served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine. He fought in
Fallujah and was honorably discharged in 2007.
Tuesday, was the last time Olivia talked to her son.
"He's coming to the end of himself, I think. He said, 'I can't take
this much longer, Mom,'" Olivia said.

Hammar graduated with his friend, McDonough, from an intensive nine-
month residential treatment center for veterans in Napa Valley,
Calif., in May. He was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder,
his mother said.
"It's a very hard treatment," Olivia said. "It's called exposure
therapy, and it's where they relive these events. It's very difficult
to get through. It's intensive."
Upon completion, he and his friend decided to just disappear, she said.
"For Johnny, his release is surfing. He's surfed all over the world.
He's surfed extensively in Costa Rica," Olivia said. "So they decided
to buy an RV and drive down there."
They bought a 1970s RV, invested $3,000 into fixing it up and left
South Florida in July.
"They just surfed along the way," Olivia said. "But we were terrified."
Sometime in early August — the exact date isn't immediately clear —
Johnny and McDonough arrived at the Los Indios bridge.
"Because there's all the signs saying you can't take weapons into
Mexico, they weren't sure about the gun," Olivia said. "When they got
to the bridge and went and talked to Border Patrol, they asked if
they could take a hunting rifle into Mexico."
Hammar would have talked to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, not
Border Patrol.
According to Olivia, authorities told Hammar he could take the gun
into Mexico as long as it was registered and a fee was paid.
"So Border Patrol took pictures of it and gave them a form to declare
it, which is what they did and they were immediately arrested,"
Olivia said of when Johnny and McDonough crossed into Mexico.
That's when the nightmare began, she said.
The office of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has sent a formal letter
to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner David
Aguilar's office to inquire why Hammar was told he could bring the
weapon into Mexico. The letter also asks for any records concerning
Hammar and firearm registration requests he made.

In Mexico, Hammar is accused of committing a grave crime. Namely,
prosecutors in Mexico accuse him of bringing a weapon into the
country that is used exclusively by the Federal Armed Forces.
His lawyer, Eddie Varon-Levy, said while the charges are serious,
Hammar's case has been mishandled and his constitutional rights
violated. Varon-Levy said he is asking for an acquittal and is
attempting to get the charges downgraded from a federal crime — as
well as getting evidence thrown out because of procedural violations.
Varon-Levy said the definition for exclusive use of the Federal Armed
Forces has to do with the caliber of the weapon.
"In this particular instance, the caliber had nothing to do with it,"
he said over the phone from Mexico City. "It's the length of the
barrel. The problem for the government is it's not sawed off. It's
from the factory, and it came like that."
Additionally, there are discrepancies in the barrel's measurements,
he said.
"The prosecutor that measured it and used that to bind him over for
trial said it was 25 inches, but another expert for the Federal
government who measured it said it was two- to one and one-half
inches shorter," Varon-Levy said.
As of yet, Veron-Levy's expert has not been granted access to examine
the shotgun, he said.
Moreover, the original customs officer who measured the weapon was
transferred to Sonora, Varon-Levy said, adding that he is working to
get this man to come back so he can cross-examine him.
Varon-Levy also said a witness cannot be used as a translator in the
Mexican judicial system. McDonough served as Hammar's translator
during his first court appearance, he said.
Varon-Levy also said Hammar has been made to appear before a judge
without representation after the courts were informed that Varon-Levy
needed to reschedule a November hearing.
He said the case against Hammar is a waste of Mexico's resources.
"I understand Matamoros is a troubled border town, but you guys are
spending a lot of resources — you should spend it on the bad guys,"
he said. "But for some unknown reason they really wanted to make an
example of this gringo."
A trial is scheduled for January, he said.

As it stands, Olivia said the American Consulate in Matamoros is
doing what it can.
With their help, Johnny was removed from the general population and
put in solitary confinement but Johnny's woes didn't end there, she
"What happened was because they don't have a facility that is
conducive to a private cell they have him in a storage closet that's
fenced in and they had him chained to a bed," Olivia said. "Now the
consulate has told us that they have told Mexico that he cannot be
chained anymore."
But the fear is still overwhelming for Olivia and her husband Jon.
The chilling phone calls they received from cartel members remain
fresh like wounds.
"The cartel told us the consulate won't be able to help us," she said.
That's when Olivia and Jon called the consulate's emergency number.
"So for three or four days we didn't know what was happening and we
kept receiving the calls, and then they just stopped," she said of
the extortion calls.
But it's nearly impossible to verify any of it, she said.
So her husband traveled to Mexico City to meet with Johnny's lawyer,
Eddie Varon-Levy.
The idea was to get a security detail so Jon could see his son.
"But it was the week of Sept. 11 and they couldn't get clearance, so
my husband hid in the back of a truck driven by his lawyer to go see
him," she said while crying. "My husband's not brave; he's a
desperate man."

The American Consulate in Matamoros confirmed Hammar's plight.
"The Consulate does confirm that Mr. Hammar is being held in a
Matamoros prison on a weapons charge but, due to the sensitivity of
the case, we have nothing more to add at this time," it said in a
statement to The Brownsville Herald.
Bryan Gulley, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, said the Hammar
family reached out to Nelson's office when Johnny was arrested.
"Previously, when he was first arrested, we assisted the family about
his safety," Gulley said, adding that Nelson's office contacted the
Consular General's office. But Gulley said his office has been
receiving calls and emails from concerned friends and family members.
"We are planning to reach out to the family very soon," he said.
Several calls to South Florida 18th District Rep. Ileana Ros-
Lehtinen's office were not returned. The Hammar family is from her
Olivia said the legal system in Mexico is confusing and they aren't
sure what the future holds.
She said the family reached out to the Mexican Embassy in Miami and
has been told through a U.S. attorney that the embassy is contacting
the federal attorney general of Mexico.
"We are not sure what else we can do, but make no mistake we are
relentless and will not rest until he is home," she said.

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