Olivia Hammar said that at one point, her son was chained to his bed in a small storage shed. The State Department told ABC News that they have since rectified the situation and Hammar is no longer chained.
"He was really hopeless. There have been times when I've talked to him and he's angry and said, 'I'm fine,' and then you'll talk to him again and he'll say, 'I can't take another minute of this,'" Olivia said tearfully.
Hammar had been a lifelong surfer and sailor who loved being outdoors, his mother said. 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.
"He's such a free spirit," she said. "He was the kid I could never keep inside and the thought of him being chained...."
Now, the Hammars are hoping that Varon Levy can help extricate their son from the Mexican judicial system. Varon Levy, speaking with ABC News from Mexico City, said that the charges Hammar was initially arrested on proved false; he was not carrying a banned weapon that was only for the military. The actual criminal charges were brought because the barrel of his shotgun was too short.
"The gun is not for the reserved use of the army, and the bullets were not for the reserved use of army, but the barrel falls 18mm below what the barrel should be," Varon Levy said. "This is a Mexican law of weapons and explosives that was violated. You can take a gun for hunting, that's not the problem. The problem is whether the barrel was measured wrong."
Varon Levy said he hopes to get Hammer out of jail within the next month, as he works with prosecutors to discuss evidence, witnesses, and possible lesser charges in the case.
"We're not getting anywhere, they just keep postponing," Olivia Hammar said Tuesday. "At this point we're not sure which is worse, the cartels or the government.
But Varon Levy said the case has taken the appropriate amount of time.
"This is a trial just like in the U.S.," Varon Levy said.
Calls to the Mexican Embassy in the U.S. were not immediately returned.