A U.S. Marine imprisoned in Mexico for bringing a banned shotgun into the country will be released from custody today, reports Fox News, which championed his cause back home. The mother of Jon Hammar, who was arrested on the U.S.-Mexico on August 13, told the network's radio affiliate that a Mexican judge has ruled in her son's favor.
The blame for Hammar's arrest depends on whom you ask. U.S. border security officials measured Hammar's shotgun and approved its travel into Mexico, but when Hammar entered Mexico and declared it on a customs form, Mexican police immediately arrested him, citing a weapons ban that restricts that type of shotgun to use only by the Mexican Armed Forces.
Hammar was being held in a jail in Matamoros, described by the Associated Press as "one of the most dangerous areas in Mexico." It's not so clear, though, if Hammar's lengthy stay resulted from a slow-moving legal bureaucracy or, as is frequently the case in Mexico's border cities, something more nefarious.
The decision to release Hammar came nine days after Arturo Sarukhan, the Ambassador of Mexico to the United States, assured Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida (where Hammar is from) that the Mexican legal system would handle Hammar's case fairly. He added: "Mexico has had very stringent gun-control laws in place for many years, and have reinforced their application as a result of the flow of weapons illicitly purchased in the U.S. and then trafficked into Mexico and into the hands of transnational criminal organizations." Here's his letter in full:
(Fox News, which first reported the letter, deemed Sarukhan's comments "a thinly veiled swipe at the U.S., blaming it for gun proliferation south of the border," without refuting the substance of his claims.)
Covered intensely by conservative media, Hammar's time in jail occasioned a similarly intense social media campaign for his release, including an active Facebook page where users organized phonebanking efforts, spread news of the progress of Hammar's trial, and celebrated his impending release.
Fox News, as the Houston Chronicle's Kathleen McKinley noted, played a central role in covering Hammar's detention:
News Organizations other than Fox News: "Remember the Marine unfairly jailed in Mexico we never told you about? He's being released."— Kathleen McKinley (@KatMcKinley) December 21, 2012