Entries in Ex-Marine (3)


Ex-Marine Jon Hammar Freed From Mexico Prison

WPLG/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A former U.S. Marine has been released from a Mexico jail after being locked up for five months on gun charges.

Officials from the U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros, Mexico met Jon Hammar at the prison Friday and escorted him to the U.S. border, where he was reunited with his family in time for the holidays, said Patrick Ventrell, acting deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department.

The nightmare unfolded in August, when Hammar and fellow veteran Ian McDonough departed for what was supposed to be a few months of surfing and camping in a Winnebago in Costa Rica.

The two had recently finished a treatment program for post-traumatic stress disorder, which Hammar suffered after fighting in Fallujah, Afghanistan, according to his mother, Olivia Hammar.

"The treatment's very exhausting, it's a tough program, and he was there almost nine months," said Olivia Hammar. "(They) decided they were going to buy an R.V., fix it up, drive down to Costa Rica through Mexico, and we were very nervous about it. We tried to discourage it, to tell him to take a plane, but they said, 'We're taking nine surfboards and need a place to stay.'"

Hammar and McDonough arrived on the border between Mexico and Texas on Aug. 15. Hammar, however, had packed his great grandfather's shotgun, a .410 Sears and Roebuck model nearly 100 years old. Hammar had hoped to hunt small birds with it while living in Costa Rica, Olivia said. The pair wanted to register the gun with Mexican authorities at the crossing point.

"There were signs that said you can't take a firearm, and so Ian said scrap it, don't take it, but Johnny said, 'Let's talk to the customs agent,'" according to Olivia. "They said, 'Technically you can (bring it across) but you'll need to register it,' and had (Johnny) fill out paperwork to present to Mexican officials."

The gun was meant for hunting, but border officials arrested the pair on federal charges of having a weapon that is reserved for military use. McDonough was released when Hammar claimed the gun was his.

Olivia and Jon Hammar, Sr., hired local lawyers to defend their son in Matamoros, Mexico, where Hammar was taken to state prison. The U.S. State Department was notified by Mexican authorities the following day, according to a department official who spoke on background.

"Almost immediately we began receiving extortion calls from cartel members in prison with him," Olivia said. The State Department and Hammar's lawyer, Eddie Varon Levy, would not comment on the claim about cartel members.

"They're saying, 'You need to wire us money or we're going to kill your son, we've already f---ed him up,' and initially I thought it was a scam, but then they put him on the phone and he was breathless and I knew they had," Olivia said. "He said, 'You need to do whatever they say. I'm so sorry. I'll pay you back.'" Hammar had been a lifelong surfer and sailor who loved being outdoors. He enlisted in the Marines at age 18, in 2003, to challenge himself. When he returned from his second tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2007, after his unit lost 16 soldiers, he was "a different man," she said.

Hammar's release was celebrated by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who was one of his most vocial supporters.

"I am overcome with joy knowing that Jon will be spending Christmas with his parents, family and friends," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Family of Civilian Killed in Iraq Sues Military Contractor

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(FALLS CHURCH, Va.) -- Three years ago, at a party thrown by U.S. civilian contractors in Iraq, a young ex-Marine named Jason Pope was shot to death by a drunken co-worker. Now, his family has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming the military contractor, DynCorp International, and 12 of its employees conspired to cover up exactly how Pope died.

At first, news media in Detroit -- Pope’s hometown -- reported that he was killed while protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq. But investigations by the State and Justice Departments found that, during a party at a U.S. embassy office in Erbil, Iraq, Pope and a fellow contractor, 27-year-old Kyle Palmer, were horsing around with Pope’s 9-millimeter Glock-19 handgun.

Federal prosecutors say, at various times, the two were actually pointing the gun at each other. Then Palmer, who was “considerably intoxicated,” according to the Justice Department, fired the gun without checking whether it was loaded. The bullet struck and killed Pope, then 25 years old.

Both men had been working as security specialists, assigned to protect diplomats, dignitaries and civilian workers in Iraq. Pope joined the company after serving two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2010, after a plea deal with prosecutors, a federal judge in Mississippi sentenced Palmer to 36 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter and ordered him to pay $6,000 in restitution and fines. But the lawsuit filed by Pope’s family accuses DynCorp International and its employees of concocting a different story, falsely suggesting that Pope was drunk and shot himself.

The family’s attorney, William Goodman, tells ABC News, “the autopsy showed that Justin had not a drop of alcohol or any other intoxicant in him.”

What motive would DynCorp or its employees have for a cover-up? According to Goodman, the episode was deeply embarrassing to the company -- one of only three major U.S. contractors operating in Iraq at the time. “They didn’t want the American public to know its money was being spent on criminal and lethal behavior,” Goodman said.

DynCorp International, based in Falls Church, Va., told ABC News in a statement: “This was an extremely tragic accident that occurred several years ago, after working hours, when certain personnel were drinking alcohol in violation of Company policy. Although our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Pope’s family and loved ones, the allegations contained within the suit are without merit.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ex-Marine Gets 15 Years in Jail for Beating Wife in Judge's Chambers

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Florida ex-marine who broke his wife's nose and jaw in a judge's chambers was sentenced to 15 years in prison Friday afternoon.

In April 2011, Paul Gonzalez, 29, became enraged when Judge Ronald Rothschild ordered him to pay child support for the couple's two young children. He viciously beat his wife, Catie Scott-Gonzalez, in front of the judge at the Broward County Courthouse.

Gonzalez was accused of beating his wife, inflicting a fractured jaw, a broken nose, bruised, black eyes, bloody lips and other injuries.

At his sentencing on Friday, his lawyers filed a motion of downward departure, which essentially meant leniency, partially because, they argued, he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after his stint in the military.

A doctor testified that Gonzalez has mental health issues. His sister, Danielle Gonzalez, acknowledged the issues were present since childhood.

"Paul was very hyper. I remember having several altercations with Paul as his older sister," she said, according to ABC News affiliate WPLG-TV.

"The two things that triggered him the most were the child support and custody," Scott-Gonzalez, 23, told after the beating. "He advised the judge that he thought child support was unconstitutional."

When Rothschild reprimanded Gonzalez, telling him he'd go to jail if he didn't pay child support, he erupted, Scott-Gonzalez said.

Scott-Gonzalez's mother, Doreen Scott, was outside of the chambers waiting for her daughter to wrap up the proceedings when she heard the tussle.

"We heard banging and screaming and then as I started to run in, all of these bailiffs came from elevators with canine dogs. I just said, 'where is my daughter?'" Scott said.

Her daughter was lying on the floor in a pool of blood. The first blow to her head had knocked her unconscious. Bailiffs had to taser Gonzalez twice to subdue him.

The Ft. Lauderdale woman spent three days in the hospital with a broken nose, fractured cheekbone and broken jaw.

She was so badly beaten that her children, Isabella, 2, and Nathaniel, 3, didn't recognize their mother.

Scott-Gonzalez's vision was so blurred that she had to withdraw from her college classes because she was unable to study for her upcoming finals, she said.

"I still have constant headaches. My equilibrium is off. I still need assistance walking," Scott-Gonzalez said on April 20, 2011.

Scott-Gonzalez's mother, who is a nurse, tended to her battered daughter on the floor of the judge's chambers.

"She's healing surface-wise, but she is not emotionally healing. She's waking up in the middle of the night crying," she said.

Scott-Gonzalez said that wasn't the first time her four-year marriage turned violent. She filed for a restraining order twice, but was denied both times. When she separated from her husband in 2010 and moved in with her mother, she started carrying a taser to protect herself.

"Going through a metal detector [at the courthouse], I assumed I was in good hands, that I was being protected, that something like this wouldn't happen," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio