In a sometimes tearful news conference Tuesday, the mother of a Marine reservist jailed in Mexico on weapons charges said that public support will help her son endure the months ahead.
“Any words, any support, prayers, he would greatly appreciate,” Jill Tahmooressi told reporters at a conference at the Belly Up tavern and music venue in the San Diego suburb of Solana Beach.
El Hongo prison outside Tecate allows short letters, although not cards or pictures, she said.
With tears in her eyes, her voice breaking, Tahmooressi remembered the phone call from her son, Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, informing her that he had been arrested at the border and was being kept in the notorious La Mesa prison where he felt his life was in danger from other prisoners.
“I just remember that phone call as if it happened 10 seconds ago,” she said. “Andrew said, ‘Mom, I’m not going to make it through the night...[But] whatever you do, don’t come down here to investigate or ask questions because you’ll be killed as well.”
After an escape attempt, Tahmooressi was shifted to the El Hongo prison, where he is being kept in a one-man cell. He receives religious visitations and can make phone calls.
Dozens of U.S. politicians have called on the Obama administration to work with Mexican authorities to free Tahmooressi, 25, who made two deployments to Afghanistan.
But Tahmooressi’s attorney, Fernando Benitez, sitting beside Jill Tahmooressi at the news conference, cautioned that the case would be decided by the judicial system, not the political system.
Also, he said that the media and Tahmooressi’s supporters should not expect a quick decision by the judge hearing the case. “That is something that needs to sink in,” he said.
A second of what could be many hearings was held Monday in Tijuana. No date has been set for a third hearing. The case could take months, Benitez said.
Tahmooressi has been in jail since April 1, held without bail. He was arrested after Mexican customs agents found a rifle, shotgun, pistol and about 500 rounds of ammunition in his pickup truck after he crossed the border at San Ysidro.
Tahmooressi insists he crossed the border by mistake after missing the last exit at San Ysidro.
Benitez said that he plans to file a motion seeking a mistrial, based on allegations that the customs agents who arrested Tahmooressi violated Mexican procedure by not providing him with a translator and not getting a judge’s approval before searching his truck. There are also irregularities with the paperwork documenting the arrest, he said.
Tahmooressi had recently moved to San Diego to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
His mother said that, once he is free, he plans to enroll in a PTSD program sponsored by Texas-based Mighty Oaks Warrior Foundation, which partners with Serving California, a faith-based group with headquarters in Malibu.
“He knows that God is journeying with us,” Jill Tahmooressi said of her son.
The news conference was arranged by Serving California, whose president, Philip Dunn, a criminal defense attorney, is advising Jill Tahmooressi. He was instrumental in finding Benitez to serve as her son’s attorney. She had been unhappy with her son’s first two attorneys.