Tuesday, September 9, 2014
No Tijuana exit today for Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi
*Updated Sept. 20*
U.S. Marine Reserve Sgt. Andrew Paul Tahmooressi claims that he arrived in Tijuana involuntarily on Mar. 31, 2014, attempting to do a quick U-turn before touching Mexican soil. Criminal defense attorney Fernando Benítez tried to demonstrate what had happened in a Baja California federal court today, but the impact was not immediately clear and the session adjourned without a ruling.
The judge reviewed B&W security tapes of the Tijuana entry station, just across from San Ysidro, California, where Sgt. Tahmooressi was detained with several weapons and an ammunition stockpile. He has been in custody for 165 days, and faces years in prison if convicted.
Weapons ownership in Mexico is reserved exclusively to law enforcement and military personnel, and draconian penalties await those who break the law.
The tapes, which were greatly redacted in order to shorten what would otherwise have been hours of viewing time, were offered with the hope that they might somehow exonerate Sgt. Tahmorressi of the illegal possession of firearms charges he is facing, by demonstrating that his March entry onto tierra mexicana was wholly unintentional. But they appear to have accomplished little.
Tahmooressi insists he was unfamiliar with the border crossing. As MGR reported on June 7, that is probably untrue. Mexico's comments on case of jailed U.S. Marine will not encourage his supporters.
On May 12 the Tijuana investigative journal ZETA - always ready to cry foul and blow the whistle on government malfeasance or falsification of evidence - reported the sergeant's wrong turn was in fact "no accident." ZETA wrote that Mexico's Procuraduría General de la República - the federal attorney general's office - had verified the intentional entry allegation after interviewing both Mexican and U.S. authorities. It did not elaborate further on the details, but the Procuraduría is presenting the case on just that theory.
[Sept. 20- According to this CNN story, posted today by a Fox News affiliate in the Seattle-Tacoma area, "The day of his arrest, Tahmooreesi spent the day in Mexico hanging out with other Marines. He also had rented a hotel room in Tijuana where he spent the previous night. That detail has led some to doubt his story, including some in the State Department, who believe instead that he intended to cross into Mexico the day of his arrest, a State Department source told CNN."]
The Obama administration has chosen not to directly involve itself in the merits of the case, beyond assurances of routine consular assistance to Tahmooressi. Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto said nothing about the case during an official visit to California two weeks ago, despite organized protests from local supporters and the complaints of a state legislator who refused to participate in a forum addressing historic ties between Mexico and the state.
Next on the defense list? A plan to offer evidence in the days ahead that Tahmooressi suffers PTSD, and that even if he is technically guilty of the offense charged, confinement in a Mexican prison would be detrimental to his emotional and mental health. That kind of strategy just might get the attention of Mexico's Supreme Judicial Court, should such ever be needed. The court often places emphasis on human rights issues over strictly legal considerations.
In a late evening email, Benítez told MGR that he had not expected a verdict in the case today. There are no juries in Mexico, and the matter is being tried to the bench as in all criminal prosecutions here.
Oct. 1, 2014 - U.S. Marine Sgt. Tahmooressi's defense does a 180, as House committee puts the full court press on Mexico
Jan. 23, 2013 - No justice for Mexicans in Florence Cassez ruling.
Apr. 19, 2013 - Mexican Supreme Court releases Canadian Cynthia Vanier, on legal technicalities
Aug. 10, 2013 - No exit for Survivor producer Bruce Beresford-Redman
Mar. 30, 2014 - Bruce Beresford-Redman's bizarre bid to escape Mexican justice - in Los Angeles
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at 10:05 PM