U.S. Marine reservist Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi is back in a Mexican jail this morning, ordered by a judge to remain in custody on gun charges near Tijuana, where he’s been locked up for 102 days.
A closed evidentiary hearing that lasted more than eight hours on Thursday was Tahmooressi’s first chance to plead his case in court.
The California native, 25, was arrested on March 31, after he says he got lost and crossed the Mexican border with three firearms in his pickup truck. Tahmooressi served two tours of duty in Afghanistan.
The possession of any weapon restricted for the use of the Army is a federal crime in Mexico regardless of whether visitors declare it or not upon entering the country.
Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office defended its decision to prosecute Tahmooressi in a statement released last month.
"In Mexico, like in the United States, ignorance of the law, error, misperceptions or misunderstandings about the consequences of violating a law, are not exemptions from responsibility," prosecutors said in the statement.
Though cameras weren’t allowed in court, Tahmooressi’s mother Jill says she was able to spend 20 minutes with her son after the hearing.
“He’s very strong. He’s very strong and positive. And he’s confident,” she said.
The State Department is actively engaged in the case. Consular officers have visited Tahmooressi 13 times, and 71 members of Congress have signed a bi-partisan letter asking the judge for leniency.
Unlike American law, in Mexico one is guilty until proven innocent and the decision rests solely in the judge’s hands.
But Fernando Benetiz, Tahmooressi’s newly-hired attorney, is hopeful.
“We feel the hearing was a success, and we feel we are finally on the right track,” Benetiz said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.