hammond thief

Erik Hammond stands before the judge with attorney Grant Hedgepeth. (Photo by Mark Thornton)


Habitual offender gets 3 years for stealing youth baseball equipment

In baseball, one of the jobs of a catcher is to stop people from stealing, and the extra equipment they have to wear has been referred to as the “tools of ignorance.”

Erik D. Hammond, 37, brings new meaning to that mission — and that phrase. He would have been better off wearing a catcher’s mask when he sold baseball gear he stole from Merchant Park to a shop in Hattiesburg last year.

Investigators with the Jones County Sheriff’s Department got surveillance video of Hammond selling the gear at the store and were able to identify him, District Attorney Tony Buckley said, and when he was arrested, he admitted to the crime.

Hammond was ordered to serve three years in prison after pleading guilty in Jones County Circuit Court to burglary of a non-dwelling. He admitted to taking catchers’ gear from the concession stand at the Ellisville youth sports facility and selling it to Play It Again Sports in Hattiesburg, Buckley said. The break-in occurred in either late December 2017 or early January 2018.

  Investigators were familiar with Hammond because he’s a two-time convicted felon — for motor-vehicle theft and burglary of a non-dwelling in 2011. Because of that, he was sentenced as a habitual offender. That means his three-year sentence will be served day-for-day, with no chance for early release.

    In addition to his time in the full-time custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, he will be required to serve three years post-release supervision under MDOC and participate in the court’s community service program. He will get credit toward his prison sentence for 189 days he has served in the Jones County Adult Detention Center. 

Hammond, who was represented by attorney Grant Hedgepeth, will also have to pay a total of $917.50 in court fees and fines. He had already paid $1,150 in restitution to Merchant Park, Hedgepeth said.

Hammond had been given a chance to avoid prison by being placed on the DA’s Pre-Trial Intervention program, but he violated the terms and was removed on April 5.

“I regret that your arrangement on pre-trial wasn’t kept,” Judge Dal Williamson said. “I hope you get this problem behind you. You have great potential. I hope and pray that you use this time to decide that you’re not going to live this life any more. It’s up to you to decide how you respond.”

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