Panama case leads to lawsuit in Boulder court




Suit: Ex-business partner falsely kept man in 'hellish' prison


A Boulder man who spent six months in a Panamanian prison has sued his former business partner, a Marshall woman who had him imprisoned when a land-development deal went south in 2006.

Robert Hammond and his girlfriend, Tamara Pace, are seeking unspecified damages against Kim Opler. The suit alleges Opler used Panama's corrupt legal system to keep Hammond in prison over what should have been a civil matter -- and that she knew the charges against him weren't true.

Opler didn't return a call seeking comment Thursday.


Hammond's legal problems stemmed from a partnership he formed with Pace and Opler to develop properties in Bocas del Toro, a booming beach community near Panama's border with Costa Rica. The partnership between the couple and Opler soured, and Opler told the Camera in 2006 that Hammond and Pace stonewalled her attempts to recover the money she'd invested in several properties.

In early January 2006, Hammond was thrown into prison. He wouldn't be released until July of that year. At the time, Opler said Hammond hadstolen her property and needed to cooperate.

"It's a bummer, isn't it?" she said. "But what you need to know is that this is not just something where for no reason, out of the blue, this is happening to him, and he's sitting there suffering for no reason."

But Hammond and Pace said no charges were ever brought against him. He was eventually released and allowed to return home.

The six months he spent in a hellish prison were devastating to his physical and mental well-being, Hammond said Thursday. He slipped and fell in the shower early in his incarceration, breaking his collarbone. He said he never received proper medical treatment, and the pain continues today.

"I can't sleep on my right side," he said. "With my shoulder the way it is, I can't stop thinking about it."

The lawsuit -- filed this week in Boulder County District Court -- contends that at the maximum-security prison where he stayed, Hammond was "housed with convicted killers and persons associated with the cartel drug lords." The prison has been criticized in U.S. State Department reports that said prisoners face unduly harsh conditions, including water shortages.

Hammond said he had to fight for basic necessities at the prison such as food, water and a bunk to sleep in.

"I wouldn't want anyone to end up there," he said. "It's the most inhumane situation I've ever seen -- much less had to live through."

Hammond's girlfriend was also detained briefly and later released. Pace spent the next year campaigning for Hammond's release from prison and later to have him taken off of house arrest. She said deciding to sue wasn't easy, but she and Hammond need justice.

"I think Bobby needs some vindication," she said. "His reputation is damaged all over town, people are wondering if he really stole a million dollars. And he wants people to know that he didn't."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Ryan Morgan at 303-473-1333 or