Here's an update to this week’s cover story in CityBeat about Lorne "Hammer" Jones, written by the author of the story, Andrew Gumbel:
Lorne Jones, the convicted former customs inspector whose case is subject of CityBeat's July 30 cover story, is reporting to federal prison today, more than three weeks ahead of the self-surrender date of Aug. 22 imposed by the San Diego District Court, and will serve no more than one-third of the time to which he was sentenced in March.
“I’m tired of fighting,” Jones told CityBeat from Reno, an hour’s drive from the Herlong Federal Correctional Institution, where he has been assigned by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). “There’s things I could still do, but I just want this to be over.”
Jones said he believed he was innocent of the charges on which he was convicted. He was further upset that the BOP was assigning him to a medium-security facility when a sentencing agreement worked out with the prosecution last month—and since made public by the court in an amended judgment—specifically called for the low-security prison at Taft, in Kern County, which is several hundred miles closer to his family in San Diego.
The amended judgment is dated July 11, the date of the hearing that Jones and his lawyer were clearly preparing for, and it cuts his time from 90 months, or seven-and-a-half years, to 30 months, or two-and-a-half years. Technically, he’s now sentenced to serve 30 months on each of the two counts—conspiracy and attempted marijuana-smuggling—on which he was convicted, but the agreement makes clear the two sentences are to be served concurrently.
Jones said he expected to be out in less than two years, allowing for time served after his arrest and before he made bail, and assuming he wins credit for good behavior.
The reason why his sentence was abruptly cut by two-thirds, even though he waived his right to appeal, remains shrouded in mystery. Nominally, the reason for the reduced sentence was Rule 35 (b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which refers to a circumstance in which a defendant offers “substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person.” But a legal source familiar with the case told CityBeat the reason was something more unusual, “like lightning striking”—curiously, the very phrase the government used at trial to describe one of its strongest pieces of circumstantial evidence.