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Jailhouse scheme extends man's stay behind bars

A Prince George man has been sentenced to a further 18 months in jail for attempting to sell stolen firearms through accomplices while he was in custody at the Prince George Regional Correctional Centre.
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A Prince George man has been sentenced to a further 18 months in jail for attempting to sell stolen firearms through accomplices while he was in custody at the Prince George Regional Correctional Centre.

Jamie Hal Hammerstrom, 36, was issued the term Friday by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Brenda Brown who, in January, found him guilty of 22 charges as a result of the failed scheme to raise money for bail.

The plan backfired in more ways than one because Hammerstrom was eventually acquitted on the charges that first put him in custody, only to find himself remaining behind bars facing the new charges.

Hammerstrom was arrested on Dec. 23, 2011 on suspicion of fleeing police in a stolen pickup truck earlier the same day but a year later was found not guilty after Crown prosecution was unable to prove the driver's identity beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, shortly after Hammerstrom's arrest on those charges, police received a tip that he ordered his two housemates in the 2000 block Quince Street home where they were living to sell his guns to raise bail money.

In early January, police executed a search warrant and seized five rifles and two shotguns from the home. Police later determined the guns were stolen from Prince George homes in December 2011.

They then obtained recordings of phone conversations involving Hammerstrom while he was in jail and, as a result, seized a handgun from a 200 block Kelly Road home about two weeks later.

Over the course of a five-week trial, Brown heard 14 such recordings and concluded references made by those involved to "wooden things," "shorts," "long things," "long pants" and "toys" were code words for the guns.

Defence counsel had been seeking a sentence of time served but Brown agreed with Crown prosecution's submission that there were few if any mitigating circumstances beyond his limited criminal record.

In contrast, Brown said there were several aggravating ones, including stealing the guns while out on bail on another charge and the likelihood they would have been sold on the black market to be used in other crimes.

"He was concerned only with his own interests and unconcerned about the consequences for society," Brown said.

She further found Hammerstrom used intimidation to get the housemates to do his bidding, passing his threats on through a third person who kept an eye on their progress in selling the weapons.

Hammerstrom was issued a total sentence of five years and received credit of time-and-a-half for the 28 months he had already served in custody, working out to three-and-a-half years. She also said that while Hammerstrom can have no contact with the three others involved while serving the sentence, he should not be held separately from the other inmate to prevent access to a phone.

"The order is imposed on Mr. Hammerstrom, not on the correctional facility," Brown said.

The decision follows a multi-day sentencing hearing in which defence counsel made applications to end any further time behind bars on the basis the case took too long to bring to trial, a constitutional challenge against the "mandatory minimum" jail time as a result of being found guilty on firearms-related charges and enhanced credit beyond one-and-a-half days for every day served because he was assaulted twice while in custody and was unfairly disciplined for the incidents. Brown dismissed all three applications.