Jailed Marine Andrew Tahmooressi back in Mexican court

By Joseph J. Kolb
Published August 04, 2014 FoxNews.com

On Day No. 127 of imprisonment, Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi entered a federal court in Tijuana to face four border officials who were involved in his March 31 arrest on weapons charges.

In the Monday hearing that is expected to last several hours, defense attorney Fernando Benitez will grill the officials, looking for discrepancies in what they said and originally reported on the night of the arrest, according to Jill Tahmooressi, Andrew's mother, who is in Tijuana for the hearing.

Benitez asserts Tahmooressi's civil rights were violated because he was not provided a translator to adequately explain why he was being arrested. He also alleges the 26-year-old Marine was held at the port of entry, where her crossed from San Ysidro, Calif., for more than eight hours before being transported to the federal police headquarters and formally charged with the Mexican federal crime of bringing weapons and ammunition used by the military into the country. He was not charged with weapons trafficking.

"The technical result of that would be that any and all evidence derived from that illegal time frame, the first eight hours ... could not be used to predicate the judge's verdict on it," Benitez told Fox News. Mexico does not have jury trials, and Tahmooressi's fate is in the hands of a single jurist -- Judge Victor Octavio Luna Escobedo.

Jill Tahmooressi said she will be in the courthouse, as she was in the first hearing July 10, where her son was finally able to make an initial statement, after two previous attorneys botched his defense. She entered Mexico with an escort from U.S. State Department officials, after expressing concerns about harassment from Mexican officials.

She suffered the indignity of a full strip search when she first visited her son in the notorious El Hongo prison in Tijuana. "I had to strip totally naked and be searched before I could see Andrew," she said. "As a nurse, I'm glad there was no cavity search."

Jill Tahmooressi said her son, who suffers from combat-related PTSD after two harrowing tours of duty in Afghanistan, is struggling to remain optimistic for a quick resolution to the ordeal. The case could languish for months, according to lawyers.

"He's despondent," she said.

Jill Tahmooressi will not be permitted in the small hearing room, but will pensively wait in the hallway hoping for an opportunity to speak to her son as the judge permitted after the first hearing, she said.

Complicating Tahmooressi's plight at the time of his arrest was that he had military-grade weapons and ammunition, as defined by Mexican statute.

Tahmooressi’s lawyer maintains the weapons in the truck where there because he had recently moved from Florida, and had all of his possessions, including the legally-purchased weapons, in his vehicle when he was stopped at the border.

Since his arrest, there have been dozens of appeals to the U.S. State Department and Mexican officials, led by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., to secure Tahmooressi's release.

On July 8, Hunter and Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., sent a letter to Escobedo, imploring him to take into consideration the circumstances surrounding Tahmooressi's accidental entry into Mexico.

"We believe the evidence supports Andrew's claim that he mistakenly entered into Mexico," wrote the congressmen. "One of the most compelling pieces of evidence is a 911 call Andrew made at the border checkpoint, where he stated he was unaware of his location."