Marine jailed in Mexico since April 1 gets hearing, shot at freedom

A Marine reservist jailed in Mexico since April 1 on a weapons charge is scheduled to appear at a court hearing Wednesday, which his family and supporters hope will lead to his freedom.

Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi will have a chance to tell a federal judge how he mistakenly drove across the border at San Ysidro at night with three weapons and ammunition in his truck. He can also question the border guards who arrested him.


Tahmooressi, 25, has said he missed the final turnoff along Interstate 5 to remain in the U.S. He was arrested by Mexican border guards a few dozen yards from the border.

"We're just praying the judge is a truthful, God-fearing man," Jill Tahmooressi, Andrew's mother, said by telephone from her home in Weston, Fla.

Led by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), a Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly two dozen members of Congress have called on the State Department to work with Mexican authorities to gain Tahmooressi's release.

Secretary of State John Kerry mentioned the case to Mexican authorities during a recent two-day trip to Mexico City, although it is unclear what effect that may have.

Although the legal systems in the two countries differ markedly, there is one similarity: Judges have great discretion in handling cases and deciding whether a case should be pursued or dropped. One option would be for additional evidentiary hearings, officials said.

Tahmooressi was in San Diego in hopes of receiving care at the Veterans Affairs hospital in La Jolla for post-traumatic stress disorder. 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.

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 an escape, which was foiled when guards opened fire.

He was then transferred to a prison near Tecate where conditions, according to his mother, are much improved. 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.

"He's much better now," Jill Tahmooressi said. "His life is not being threatened.... He's cautiously optimistic."

A demonstration on behalf of Tahmooressi is planned Wednesday on the U.S. side of the border by a group called the Patriot Coalition of San Diego.

"Many in the U.S. think it is unjust, un-American, for this brave Marine" to be jailed for an "honest mistake," coalition leader Gina Loudon told Fox News.