Marine Andrew Tahmooressi has hired a third defense attorney in his quest for freedom from a Mexican jail.
Tahmooressi has been in jail since he was arrested April 1 on weapons charges after he drove into Tijuana. He allegedly had three weapons and 400 rounds of ammunition, according to his attorney. Mexican authorities had a decidedly different take on what was seized from the Marine’s truck.
Mexico’s Attorney General said in early June that police at the border seized a 12-gauge loaded shotgun, a 5.56-caliber rifle loaded with a 30-round clip and with two additional clips, a .45-caliber loaded pistol, loaded with 10 .45-caliber rounds and with two additional clips from Tahmooressi truck.
Tahmooressi’s latest attorney, Fernando Benitez, said he believes there’s something shady with the arrest of the Weston Marine.
“It’s clear to me that Andrew never intended, uh, he might have known or not known that it was a crime,” Benitez said. “It’s irrelevant here. What is clear, he didn’t intend to cross.”
Still, Benitez said ignorance of the law isn’t a defense in Mexico.
“This was a mistake. A misunderstanding. I believe Andrew, but there’s not a single item of evidence that’s been entered here that supports his claim of innocence,” Benitez said. “We can’t really demand the judge to release him because he doesn’t have anything to go on and that’s our job. We need to afford him the evidence needed.”
Proving his innocence could be tough. Benitez said he’s poured over arrest reports and transcripts and believes that questionable practices are at play.
“The same way I can tell you I believe in Andrew, I can tell you I don’t believe word one what the guys from customs have been saying,” Benitez said. “I can’t find any place that says he was informed he was being detained. Never did they tell him.”
Tahmooressi was in the San Diego area to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of his arrest. His family said he got lost near the border after dark and took a wrong turn into Mexico.
Mexican officials said they have evidence from U.S. authorities showing that Tahmooressi had entered through the same border crossing on three prior occasions. Mexican authorities also said Tahmooressi didn’t identify himself as an active member of the U.S. armed forces at the time of his arrest.
Tahmooressi’s family has picked up support from powerful Florida politicians including Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Senator Marco Rubio. Sunday, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen thanked volunteers who gathered to sign cards and write letters to Andrew to lift his spirits.
While the calls for his release come from South Florida and Washington, DC, Benitez said there’s still a long process ahead of him and his client.
“There’s going to be an outcome,” Benitez said. “I hope that it’s going to be an outcome that everybody likes, but it’s not going to be tomorrow.”