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Protesters Who Burned Olympic Banner Get Probation

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Jason Hammond (left), Jeremy Hammond (Chicago Police)

Jason Hammond (left), Jeremy Hammond (Chicago Police)

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 CHICAGO (CBS) – Twin brothers who created a disturbance last year by damaging an Olympic banner in Daley Plaza as the city sought the 2016 Summer Games were sentenced to probation Monday after both siblings expressed contrition in court.

“I made a mistake,” a dreadlocked Jason Hammond, 25, told Cook County Judge Joseph Kazmierski before he was sentenced to one year probation for his anti-Olympics shenanigans.

Hammond’s twin, Jeremy, received 18 months probation and was ordered to perform 130 hours of community service.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions,” said a cleaner cut Jeremy Hammond, who also had dreadlocks when arrested but has since gotten a trim.

The Hammonds were convicted of mob action following a bench trial last month.

Assistant State’s Attorney Eric Sauceda asked Kazmierski to sentence the men to prison, citing the men’s repeated failure to “comply with the laws of the state and country.”

Both were convicted of disorderly conduct this past March in Rolling Meadows, Sauceda said. Jeremy Hammond, a web developer, was sentenced to two years in prison in 2006 for hacking into a conservative web site and received one year probation for simple battery in 2005, according to published reports and court records.

Ironically, the Hammonds, who say they are proponents of free speech, “had no regard, nor respect” for free speech when they tore down the banner and burned it in the nearby Daley Plaza “eternal flame” to protest their disdain for the Olympics in Chicago, Sauceda said.

The twin’s father, Glendale Heights musician Jack Hammond, and their attorney Melinda Power described the young men as conscientious community activists who got caught up in the moment.

“They’ve learned their lesson. They knew what they did was wrong,” Power said.

Jack Hammond said son Jason teaches guitar with him at Perry’s Music Center in Villa Park and is loved by his students. Both of his sons volunteer for various organizations, including Food Not Bombs, Jack Hammond said.

Although he said he was “sad” about being in court to defend his sons, Jack Hammond said he is very “proud of his kids.”

“They made a stupid, stupid, stupid mistake,” the patriarch said.

Following the hearing, Jeremy Hammond, of Chicago, immediately untucked his dark brown dress shirt and smiled at the nearly two dozen supporters who sat in the courtroom benches.

Jason Hammond, of Glendale Heights, gave a friend a high five. Later he giddily performed a handstand outside the courtroom.

“This was less about the Olympics than community activism,” said Jack Hammond, who added that unlike his sons, he wanted the Olympics to come to Chicago.

“We argue all the time,” he smiled.

Just two days after the Hammonds and other anti-Olympic protesters were arrested on Sept. 30, 2009, Chicago was the first of four finalists to be eliminated by the International Olympic Committee.

“Everyone knows most of the city didn’t want the Olympics here except Mayor Daley and his cronies,” Jeremy Hammond said following the sentencing.

“It’s ridiculous — this felony charge of mob action considering Daley’s history of displacing people, the police brutality of Jon Burge under his watch. We’re glad he’s gone and we’re glad that the Olympics didn’t come to Chicago.”

Two others originally arrested in the unruly protest — Jeremy Sorkin, 21, of Chicago and Brian C. Brown, 22, of Itasca — were acquitted.

Two other defendants, 21-year-old Johnathon Clark of North Carolina and 20-year-old Anna Stafford of Wheatfield, Ind., pleaded guilty last year to misdemeanor charges and were sentenced to court supervision and community service.

Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire.

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