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Supporters of Marine jailed in Mexico want White House to intervene

Supporters plead with President Obama to help free Marine jailed on weapons charge in Mexico
Marine jailed in Mexico on weapons charge reportedly checked into Tijuana hotel hours before arrest

As their options for gaining his release from a Mexican jail seem to be narrowing, the family and supporters of Marine reservist Andrew Tahmooressi are hoping the White House will intervene.

Jill Tahmooressi has placed a petition on the White House website on behalf of her son. White House rules for its We the People petition platform are that any petition that gets 100,000 signatures merits a response.

The petition now has more than 123,000 signatures but so far the White House has not responded.

Sgt. Tahmooressi, 25, a veteran of Afghanistan, has been in jail in Baja California since April 1 on a weapons charge. Mexican police say they found three weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his truck after he crossed the border at San Ysidro into Tijuana.

Tahmooressi initially said that he became confused while driving and missed the turnoff to remain in the U.S. and that he had never before visited Tijuana.

But Tahmooressi’s story has grown more muddled with the disclosure that he apparently checked in to a downtown Tijuana hotel in the hours before his arrest. 

Jose Antonio Vasquez, the manager at the Hotel Nelson, said that on March 31 Tahmooressi paid 309 pesos, about $24, for a single room, then went upstairs to his third-floor room.

A photograph of the signed copy of the registration form, which included Tahmooressi’s Florida address, was published in the respected Tijuana news weekly Zeta, which first reported the story earlier this month. 

Tahmooressi checked in at 5:02 p.m., according to the registration form. Six hours hours later, at about 11 p.m., he was arrested. Tahmooressi left nothing behind in the room at the hotel, which serves many day-trippers from the U.S who come to shop on Avenida Revolucion.

“He didn’t say much. He just paid his bill and then went upstairs," said Nazario Galvan, the shift manager who attended Tahmooressi, during a recent interview at the hotel.

The timeline adds to a list of other recent disclosures that seem to undercut Tahmooressi’s initial claim that he had driven across the border by mistake with three loaded weapons. U.S. authorities say he had made several trips across the border.

According to Zeta, Tahmooressi had a girlfriend in Tijuana.

After he checked into the Hotel Nelson, Tahmooressi crossed back into the U.S. on foot, retrieved his pickup truck at a parking lot. then tried recrossing into Tijuana before being stopped by Mexican border authorities, the newspaper reported.

A court hearing for Tahmooressi was canceled after he fired his Mexican attorney. No announcement has been made about a new hearing date.

Tahmooressi remains in a federal prison outside Tecate. Family and supporters say he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and had moved to San Diego to get treatment at the Veterans Affairs hospital in La Jolla.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), who has also written to Secretary of State John F. Kerry and the Marine commandant, Gen. James Amos, wrote this week to President Obama urging him to "address this matter with the attention that it demands" from a commander-in-chief.

"I trust that it will be treated with greater urgency than other matters that your administration has already responded to, including those that relate to Major League Baseball's Opening Day, Justin Bieber's immigration status, and the White House Beer Recipe."

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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