U.S. Marine Corps reservist Andrew Paul Tahmooressi is being held in a Mexican prison.  He has been there for 3 months on weapons charges.  According to his new attorney, had there not been “missed opportunities” made by his first legal counsel, he would have been released within days of detention.  Fernando Benitez, the new attorney for Sgt. Tahmooressi, said his client’s case was allowed to “simmer”.

Recently, the sergeant fired his original counsel.

“For anybody being involved in a criminal case in Mexico…those first 96 hours are crucial,” Benitez said, “A lot can be done, and releases can and are obtained regularly, but you have to aggressively address a defensive strategy.”

Benitez says because of these incompetent missteps, the American is now at the mercy of the Mexican judicial system and there is no timetable.

Sgt. Tahmooressi has maintained his innocence and said that he took a wrong turn on the California side of the border and accidentally crossed into Mexico on March 31st.  He was in possession of firearms he is legally allowed to own in the U.S.

Sgt. Tahmooressi served in Afghanistan and had recently moved to San Ysidro, CA to undergo PTSD treatment.  He was arrested for having a .45-caliber pistol, a 12-gauge shotgun, and an AR-15 by Mexican authorities.  For weeks, Sgt. Tahmooressi sat in a Tijuana prison cell while his defense failed to submit any evidence to the court in the initial stages of his case.  Sgt. Tahmooressi and his attorneys allege that he was beaten and tortured by guards and prisoners at the Mexican prison.  Mexican officials have denied this.  Sgt. Tahmooressi is now being held at El Hongo Penitentiary in Tecate, Mexico.  Benitez has submitted evidence on behalf of the American sergeant and the next court date is August 4th.

“In Andrew’s case, several windows of opportunity were missed,” Benitez said, “It’s frustrating to us. I would have loved to have taken advantage of those opportunities. But now we need to work with what we have and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

“I believe he was denied several basic human rights, which, it’s my contention, should result in reparation from the court” in the form of declaring a mistrial or tossing out the testimony “of those officers who are singling him out as the responsible party in this case.”

Benitez has a strong defense career with over 20 years of experience in Mexico and a good record of dismissals and acquittals.

“Andrew’s case, believe it or not, is technically not that complex,” Benitez said. “It’s a mistake many people have made. I’ve driven my car up to San Diego and back to Tijuana and I can tell you I’ve made the same mistake he made. And I’m a resident. The evidence we’ve been uncovering all supports his story.”


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