Lawyers at odds for sentencing from high-profile arrest

Lawyers at odds for sentencing from high-profile arrest

Sentencing positions range from house arrest to federal prison for Jamie Hal Hammerstrom

The attorney for a man arrested in a high profile takedown that forced the Hart Highway to close for several hours filed for house arrest while the attorney battled for time in a federal courthouse during a trial Monday at the Prince George courthouse.

Jamie Hal Hammerstrom, 43, pleaded guilty to five counts according to an agreed-upon statement of facts following the July 17, 2019 incident that began when a shotgun was stolen from a house on Chief Lake Road.

Later that morning, RCMP spotted a pickup truck in the area that matched one seen in pictures from the house’s security camera. Hammerstrom refused to participate in the robbery but admitted to being behind the wheel during the events that followed.

He took off at high speed and shortly afterwards two more RCMP ran into the vehicle, which was traveling south on Hart Highway and then turning onto Knell Road.

Hammerstrom pursued a U-turn with two RCMP vehicles. One of the RCMP parked his vehicle to block the way out and was hit on the passenger side when Hammerstrom had to swerve to escape the police. An officer driving a second RCMP vehicle then deliberately hit the pickup truck, which then drove along the four lanes of the freeway at high speed before encountering an embankment.

Hammerstrom and co-defendant John Robert Barton Craig jumped out of the truck wearing masks. Hammerstrom then reached back and pulled out a loaded 12-gauge shotgun with one shot and ran in pursuit with an officer, gun drawn.

When Hammerstrom did not obey an order to stop, the officer fired a warning shot. Hammerstrom dropped his weapon and ran on before finally completing another order to stop and fall to the ground. During a subsequent search, two more shotgun shells were found in his jacket.

Craig, meanwhile, stopped a member of the public who mistakenly believed he was helping the police. Craig slapped the man in the face and tried to steal the vehicle. But the man resisted and Craig was arrested at gunpoint.

The scene was closed to traffic in both directions for several hours as police gathered evidence.

In October 2020, Craig was sentenced to an additional 66 days in prison and three years probation. Until then, he had been detained for 455 days.

Hammerstrom, meanwhile, was released on bail in April 2019 to attend an inpatient treatment center. His lawyer, David Hopkins, highlighted his good behavior and the progress he has made in dealing with his drug addiction when he advocated parole.

If allowed, Hammerstrom would spend his tenure at home on terms such as being allowed to leave the property for a limited time each day when he was not working.

Rick Evans, the director of the treatment center that Hammerstrom attended, also spoke to the court to support him and effectively described him as a model participant who continues to stay sober and fully occupied.

However, Crown Attorney Emily Yao argued that given the circumstances of the case and Hammerstrom’s long-standing criminal record, a total sentence of four years minus the 413 day credit for the time in custody prior to conviction would be more reasonable.

It includes a five year sentence less 3 1/2 years credit for a failed accomplice to accomplish the sale of stolen firearms while he was in custody on another matter at the Prince George Regional Correctional Center.

Crown also pointed to the case law questioning whether Judge Hammerstrom could be sentenced to a conditional sentence. Since this is a provincial sentence, the maximum length of a conditional sentence is two years less per day.

It was a “highly charged situation” where “no one was injured or killed just by being lucky,” Yao said of the recent affair.

Hammerstrom had the opportunity to speak to the court and apologized for his actions.

“It was during this time that I realized that drugs obviously have an effect on me and I am better off without them,” said Hammerstrom.

Crown is also seeking a three-year driving ban and a $ 4,470 refund order for the cost of repairing the embankment on the freeway.

Provincial Court Judge Martin Nadon stressed that he had not yet made a decision on the conviction and said Hammerstrom would have to wear electronic surveillance if he was sentenced to house arrest. A judgment will be issued at a later date.