The court hearing for a Marine reservist jailed in Mexico on weapons charges was delayed Wednesday after he fired his attorney.
Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, 25, fired his lawyer, Alejandro Osuna Gonzales, over a disagreement about advice that Gonzales gave Tahmooressi soon after he was arrested April 1 for having weapons in his truck.
It is unclear when the hearing may be rescheduled. U.S. and Mexican reporters were left waiting outside the court building after being denied admittance to proceedings.
Tahmooressi arrived handcuffed to other prisoners. After the hearing, he was returned to prison.
Gonzales told reporters that he respected the decision made by Tahmooressi and his mother, Jill Tahmooressi, to find a new attorney.
"I wish Andrew and his mother all the best," Gonzales said. "Andrew is innocent and he should not be here and he will get out of this mess that he is in."
Jill Tahmooressi, in a telephone interview from her home in Florida, said that Gonzales had advised her son to tell authorities and reporters that he had never been to Tijuana before he mistakenly drove across the border and was arrested.
That explanation was later challenged when Mexican authorities found images on surveillance cameras of Tahmooressi crossing the border on at least one other occasion. To some, that news seemed to undercut Tahmooressi's assertion that he became confused at the border.
"It was his lawyer's idea for him to lie," said Jill Tahmooressi.
Sgt. Tahmooressi has said he missed the final turnoff along the 5 Freeway to remain in the U.S. He was arrested by Mexican border guards a few dozen yards from the border.
Nearly 24 members of Congress have called on the U.S. State Department to work with Mexican authorities to free Tahmooressi.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry mentioned the case to Mexican authorities on a recent trip to Mexico City, although it is unclear what effect that might have.
Tahmooressi had been in San Diego in hopes of receiving care for post-traumatic stress disorder at the Veterans Affairs hospital in La Jolla. He served two tours in Afghanistan and was meritoriously promoted to sergeant.
In his truck, along with his other belongings, were a shotgun, handgun and rifle, all legal in the U.S. but illegal to possess in Mexico. A large sign near the border warns that weapons are illegal in Mexico.
Initially, Tahmooressi was sent to the infamous La Mesa prison outside Tijuana, where conditions are often described as squalid. After being assaulted by other prisoners he attempted to escape, but was foiled when guards opened fire.
He was then transferred to a prison near Tecate where conditions, according to his mother, are much better. Tahmooressi is in a cell by himself and under guard, with access to a pay telephone to call his mother.
The case is being monitored by the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana.
At Wednesday's hearing, Tahmooressi was to have a chance to tell the judge that he mistakenly crossed the border and would never intentionally take weapons into Mexico. Supporters had hoped that the hearing might persuade the judge to drop the case and release Tahmooressi.
The hearing apparently will be rescheduled once Tahmooressi has a new lawyer.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times