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Marine jailed in Mexico gets new court hearing for weapons charges

New hearing for Marine jailed in Mexico on weapons charges

Andrew Tahmooressi, the Marine reservist jailed in Mexico since April 1 on weapons charges, has a court hearing set for next week but is resigned to the possibility that it could take months to win his freedom, his mother said.

Jill Tahmooressi said Sunday her son’s new Mexican attorney has advised him that the legal process could take six months. Still, she and her son have confidence in the attorney, she said.

“We’re just glad to get started,” Jill Tahmooressi said from her home in Florida. “Andrew is looking forward to the hearing.”

Arrested at the Mexican side of the border crossing at San Ysidro, the 25-year-old Marine sergeant who served in Afghanistan is being held in a Mexican prison in Tecate. His hearing is set for July 9. A May 28 hearing was cancelled after Tahmooressi fired his first attorney.

The Tecate prison is safer than the Mexican prison at La Mesa where he was initially held after Mexican police said he crossed into Mexico with three weapons and several hundred rounds of ammunition. He is being kept in a single cell.

“He’s safer there,” his mother said. “He knows when he goes to bed at night that he won’t be killed. That helps him sleep. And it helps me sleep too.”

Several dozen U.S. politicians have sought to convince the Obama administration to pressure Mexican officials to release Tahmooressi.

But Tahmooressi's new attorney, Fernandez Benitez, has warned him and his mother that political pressure will not win his freedom.

"This is a federal court and as in any democratic nation you will not find an executive calling up a judge and ordering the release of a suspect," Benitez told Fox News. "It makes no difference if it is a mayor, governor, or the president, there's not a phone call in the world that will change this." 

At the July 9 hearing in Tijuana, Tahmooressi is prepared to tell the judge that he crossed into Mexico by mistake when he missed the turnoff on Interstate 5 to remain in the U.S. Possession of weapons is illegal in Mexico and several signs along the freeway warn travelers.

On the Fourth of July, Jill Tahmooressi has arranged for a letter to be presented to Anthony Wayne, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

Wayne, a career diplomat, was deputy ambassador to Afghanistan while Tahmooressi served there as part of an infantry battalion assigned to Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold. His actions brought him a meritorious promotion to sergeant.

Under the Mexican law, judges often hold multiple hearings to hear all sides of a criminal case. A judge has wide discretion to continue or drop a case.

Tahmooressi has said he moved to San Diego to receive treatment at the Veterans' Affairs hospital in La Jolla for post-traumatic stress disorder. He had his weapons in his pickup truck along with his other belongings, he said.

His version of events, however, has become muddled because he initially claimed he had never been to Mexico but reporters later discovered he had registered earlier that day in a $24 a-night hotel in downtown Tijuana.

Much of the family's fight to free Tahmooressi has taken place online, first with a Facebook page, then a petition on the White House website, and now a site seeking money to fund Tahmooressi's legal defense: www.andrewfreedomfund.com.

tony.perry@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATsandiego

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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