Marine jailed in Mexico on weapons charges awaits key ruling

Judge nears important ruling the case of Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, held in Mexico on weapons charges

A Marine reservist held in a Mexican prison on weapons charges is awaiting a judge's ruling that the jurist is ready for closing arguments from defense and prosecution.

Once those arguments are submitted, the judge will decide the fate of Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, held without bail since April 1 on charges of violating Mexico's strict laws against bringing weapons into the country. No timetable has been announced for those decisions.

Tahmooressi, 25, who served two deployments in Afghanistan, was arrested at the San Ysidro border crossing with a rifle, a shotgun, a pistol and several hundred rounds of ammunition in his pickup truck. He told Mexican authorities that he had mistakenly crossed the border after missing the turnoff to remain in the U.S.

Tahmooressi's mother - backed by two psychologists who submitted reports to the Mexican judge - said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He had moved to San Diego in hopes of receiving treatment at the Veteran Affairs hospital in La Jolla.

Jill Tahmooressi, a nurse in Florida, issued a statement this week that the family "continues to respectfully implore the Mexican authorities to expeditiously process this case consistent with Mexican law. Words cannot express the urgency of their concern that Andrew has gone 6.5 months without any treatment whatsoever for his severe combat PTSD."

Initially, Tahmooressi insisted that he had never visited Tijuana and was easily confused by the roads leading to the San Ysidro crossing. But that account was later undercut when it was learned that he had been in Tijuana just hours earlier, staying in a hotel next to the city's entertainment zone.

Tahmooressi's mother has said that his incorrect version of events was the result of bad advice from his attorney. That attorney has since been dismissed, and Tahmooressi is now represented by one of the city's top criminal defense attorneys, Fernando Benitez.

Dozens of U.S. politicians have called on the Mexican government to release Tahmooressi. Similar calls have come from two high-profile advocates for veterans: talk-show host Montel Williams and actor Gary Sinise.

In emotional terms, Williams and Jill Tahmooressi testified at a congressional hearing Oct. 1 about the combat veteran's treatment in Mexico and his need for PTSD therapy.

During the hearing, two members of Congress said that after discussing the case with the Mexican attorney general they are confident that Tahmooressi will soon be released so he can return to the U.S. for help.

The Mexican court hearings in Tijuana are closed to the press. Mexican prosecutors have declined to discuss the case with reporters.

The Mexican embassy in Washington issued a statement noting that the case will be decided by its legal merits, not due to any political or public pressure from the U.S., and that large signs warn visitors to Mexico that bringing weapons is illegal.

Also, the statement said: "It is worth noting that upon his entry into the [Mexican] prison in La Mesa, Mr. Tahmooressi demonstrated violent behavior, twice attempting to escape and suffering self-inflicted wounds, which led him to be placed in the infirmary."

Since then, Tahmooressi has been shifted to a prison outside Tecate where he is held in a single-person cell and allowed telephone calls to his mother.

At the congressional hearing, Jill Tahmooressi said her son was combative while at La Mesa because of death threats from other prisoners. Williams, who served in the Navy and Marine Corps, suggested that Tahmooressi's behavior was caused by the "hyper-vigilance" common to veterans with PTSD.

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