Hearing set for Marine jailed in Mexico on weapons charges

Hearing set for Marine jailed in Mexico on weapons charges
Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi looks down from his seat in a Marine combat vehicle during one of his combat tours in Afghanistan 2010-2012. Tahmooressi is now in a Tijuana prison on weapons charges. (Family Photo / MCT)

A Marine jailed in Mexico since April 1 on weapons charges is set Monday for a second evidentiary hearing before a federal judge in Tijuana.

The hearing will allow the attorney for Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi to question four Mexican officials who detained and arrested him after he crossed the border with a rifle, shotgun, pistol and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his pickup truck.


Part of Tahmooressi's defense is that his rights were violated when officials did not follow procedures under Mexican law.

Tahmooressi's mother, Jill, said Sunday that she does not expect the judge to immediately free her son but sees the hearing as "one step closer to his inevitable release."

Tahmooressi remains in a one-man cell in a federal prison outside Tecate. He has moments of despondency but tries to remain optimistic, his mother said shortly after arriving in San Diego from her home in Florida.

"This is now in its fifth month, " she said. "It has gone on exceedingly long but he's hanging in there — like a good Marine."

Tahmooressi, 25, who did two deployments in Afghanistan and is now in the reserves, had moved to San Diego to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder at the Veterans Affairs hospital in La Jolla.

He has consistently said he crossed the border by mistake, missing the turnoff to remain in the U.S. That story was challenged by Mexican officials when Tahmooressi's explanation that he had never before visited Mexico proved to be untrue.

At the hearing Monday, Jill Tahmooressi will be accompanied by Philip Dunn, president of Malibu-based Serving California, a faith-based, nonprofit organization commited to assisting veterans, incarcerated inmates and others.

Dunn, a criminal defense attorney, helped Jill Tahmooressi hire a new attorney for her son after becoming displeased with the first two attorneys that were hired.

Tahmooressi's new attorney, Fernando Benitez, is a criminal defense attorney with a long history of high-profile cases. He appeared for Tahmooressi at a July 9 hearing, the first time that Tahmooressi had a chance to explain to a judge what happened at the border crossing at San Ysidro.

Dunn said he is very impressed with Benitez's preparation for the case and his determination to win Tahmooressi's freedom. But Dunn has also counseled that it may not be a quick process and that, under Mexican law, multiple hearings may be necessary before the judge renders a decision.

Numerous politicians, Marines and others have rallied to Tahmooressi’s defense, calling on President Obama to demand that Mexican authorities release him. A petition on the White House website has gathered more than 133,000 signatures.

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), who has been a big supporter of Tahmooressi, arranged for Jill Tahmooressi to come to Omaha from Weston, Fla., for a rally Friday attended by several hundred people in the city’s Memorial Park. Seeing her son in jail, she told the gathering, has been worse than having him in combat in Afghanistan.

"It's been a torturous experience," she said.

Some $3,500 was raised at the rally to offset the mounting costs, according to a story in the Omaha World-Herald.


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