U.S. Marine jailed in Mexico

Daily News Article   —   Posted on May 22, 2014

Andrew-Tahmooressi

U.S. Marine Andrew Tahmooressi

(by Joseph J. Kolb, FoxNews) – The mother of a U.S. Marine being held in a Mexican jail after he crossed the border with guns in his pickup truck said her son’s current ordeal is more traumatic than the two tours of duty he served in Afghanistan.

Andrew Tahmooressi, 25, faces up to 21 years in [a Mexican] prison and has already lost more than 20 pounds since being arrested March 31 at a border crossing near San Diego, according to his mother, Jill Tahmooressi. …

“We have a decorated Marine being held in a Mexican prison for no reason,” said Jill Tahmooressi, of Weston, Fla. “By far, this is worse than Afghanistan. At least he was in Afghanistan by choice, proud and honored. Now he is being held captive under inhumane conditions.”

Andrew Tahmooressi was arrested by Mexican military after border inspectors found three legally purchased and registered weapons in his truck. Although he says he made a wrong turn at the poorly-marked crossing, he was taken to the notorious La Mesa State Prison in Tijuana.

Tahmooressi did not even realize he was in Mexico because of the poorly lit area and a small sign covered in graffiti, conditions verified by Fox News Channel’s Greta Van Susteren, who retraced Tahmooressi’s path for a segment that aired on Monday night [May 19th]. He entered Mexico at a substation border crossing and not the main San Ysidro border crossing. Once Tahmooressi found himself headed to the station, there was no opportunity to turn around.

“He was in the town of San Ysidro and you think you’re getting onto I-5 but you’re actually driving to a point of no return,” said the Marine’s mother.

Death threats at La Mesa prompted Tahmooressi to attempt an escape, an effort that got him shackled in his prison cell under deplorable conditions for more than a month, his mother said. He has since been transferred to El Hongo Federal Penitentiary, where he remains. …

Tahmooressi served two tours of duty in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2012, and he received a battlefield promotion to sergeant because of his leadership and heroism in the face of fire in the notorious Helmand Province. But once he was back home in Florida, where he was plagued by PTSD, a fellow Marine suggested he go to California for treatment at the Veterans Administration facility in La Jolla. He was in California when he made his ill-fated trip.

According to Jill Tahmooressi, her son was living out of his pickup truck while he sought transitional housing when he left a shopping center parking lot around 11 p.m. and turned down a dark road that led to the border crossing and his current nightmare.

Tahmooressi hopes that the Mexican attorneys she has hired will be able to convince the judge to find it was an accidental entry and drop the charges. A hearing is scheduled for May 28, when members of the arresting Mexican border officials and military will need to present their statements to the judge, who could make a ruling then. Beyond that, Tahmooressi’s legal team cannot say when or if the case might go to trial.

Officials from the U.S. Consulate check in on Tahmooressi, but other than that the U.S. government has been unable to intervene on Tahmooressi’s behalf. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., is urging the Obama administration to suspend military aid to Mexico.

“Perhaps Mexico should be reminded of the hundreds of military and law enforcement incursions at the border, where [Mexican] officials and personnel have entered the U.S. without permission and most always carrying weapons,” Hunter said in a statement. “These incidents must be stopped altogether, but Mexico’s actions in Andrew’s case, similar to others, underscore the immediate need for a new form of legal treatment by U.S. officials when incursions occur.”

Jill Tahmooressi warned Americans to give the Mexican border a wide berth, and urged the State Department to better inform travelers with regular public service announcements and better signage along U.S. roads near border entry points.

“People should stay 10 miles from the border because it is so dangerous there,” she said. “I am appalled we don’t protect our people better on this side of the border so Americans are not subjected to Mexican brutality.”

[CNN reported on May 9: It is difficult for the U.S. State Department to quantify how many arrests are due to accidental crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, a spokeswoman told CNN, but Andrew Tahmooressi’s case is not all that unique.  In 2012, former Marine Jon Hammar was on his way to a surfing trip with friends when he was arrested while carrying an antique shotgun across the Mexican border checkpoint in Brownsville, Texas. He had filled out paperwork stating he would be carrying the gun, but was arrested and held for four months in a Mexican prison.]

Published at Fox News on May 20.  Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from Fox News. 

Questions

PLEASE NOTE: The last day of posting for the school year is June 13th. 
“Answers” emails will end for the summer on May 23rd.

1. What do you learn about Andrew Tahmooressi’s life before he was arrested on the Mexican border?

2. Why was Andrew Tahmooressi arrested by Mexican border guards?

3. How does Sgt. Tahmooressi explain crossing the border with guns in his car?

4. a) Why did Sgt. Tahmooressi attempt to escape?
b) What type of treatment is he receiving in prison?

5. From paragraph 5: “Officials from the U.S. Consulate check in on Tahmooressi, but other than that the U.S. government has been unable to intervene on Tahmooressi’s behalf. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., is urging the Obama administration to suspend military aid to Mexico.”
One commentator said: “You’d think the same type of people who complain and file lawsuits when terrorists are forced to listen to loud music at [Guantanamo] would be outraged that one of our own has been chained to his bed for a month! Under the current [U.S.] administration’s watch, last year 36,000 convicted criminals were released. … It’d be nice to see our administration fight just as hard for just one Marine to be released as well on the other side.”
And added that it is crucial that Americans “make some noise” before the hearing on May 29, when Mexican officials will make a statement to the judge handling Tahmooressi’s case. “Call your congressman. Call your senator. Call anybody [who] will listen”
“Maybe you could just tweet a picture of yourself holding one of these,” he added, holding up a #FreeTahmooressi sign

a) Watch the news report under “Resources” and read the “Background.” What does reporter Greta van Susteren call on President Obama to do?
b) Tahmooressi has been in jail on unjust charges for almost 2 months. Why do you think President Obama hasn’t tried to secure this innocent Marine’s release so far? Explain your answer.


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Background

U.S. Marine Held in a Mexican Prison because he Accidentally Crossed the Border:

  • Marine Corps Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi has been held in a Mexican prison since March 31, when he says he accidentally crossed the border into Mexico with three legally registered firearms in his vehicle.
  • Having relocated to San Diego only days before [to be treated for PTSD at the VA hospital there], Tahmooressi was on his way to dinner with friends and still had most of his possessions in his car, since he was still looking for a permanent place to live. San Ysidro, where he was meeting his friends for dinner, is only 1.7 miles from the Mexican border.
  • For those who don’t live near a border and have a hard time understanding how quickly one can accidentally cross it, radio host Mike Slater – who can be heard on San Diego’s KFMB on weekdays – drove the route Tahmooressi took, filming the whole thing.  “It all goes so fast,” Slater said. “You’re going south on [Interstate 5] and you’re going 75 mph. And then you’re there!”
  • Slater showed how, after Tahmooressi missed his intended exit, he would’ve had to rapidly cut across five lanes of traffic in order to turn around before the border crossing. Moreover, the sign warning of the last U-turn is small, blue and unlit, Slater added, and Tahmooressi was driving at night.
  • Tahmooressi was able to speak with the Associated Press earlier this month, and said he thought that he would be able to explain that he wanted to turn around when he reached the border. A recently released 911 call Tahmooressi made shortly after crossing the border seems to confirm the decorated veteran crossed the border accidentally and was just trying to turn around.
  • But Mexican police quickly surrounded Tahmooressi and placed him with the general population in La Mesa Penitentiary, one of the most dangerous prisons in Mexico.
  • After “hit men” threatened to [assault him], Tahmooressi escaped, but was quickly recaptured. He was then moved to solitary confinement, where his hands and feet were chained to a bed for over thirty days. Tahmooressi has now been transferred to a maximum security facility roughly 40 miles outside of Tijuana. If convicted, he could serve up to 21 years in a Mexican prison for carrying his firearms across the border.

From a May 20 commentary by Greta Van Susteren posted at On the Record: “President Obama, make a call and bring our jailed Marine home from Mexico”

Let’s all go “Off the Record” for a minute. I saw with my own eyes, even drove it — the turn Sergeant Tahmooressi made, thinking he was going back to San Diego. It’s the one, frankly, I would have taken. It was, after all, the direction towards San Diego.

It was dark, the sign was fully placed, even smudged with graffiti and once into that turn, that’s where there was the big surprise. The entrance ramp didn’t go north to San Diego but loops down below, south, and right into Mexico. Once on that ramp, there were absolutely no options. One hundred yards later, the Mexican checkpoint. Once at that checkpoint and you hear it on the 911 call, he reported the guns, guns he lawfully possesses in the U.S.

We showed you the receipts, or at least we have the receipts and could show them to you. Yes, in Mexico, gun possession is illegal. It was an accident that he ended up in Mexico. Simply a mistake, a bad turn. Frankly, a real dumb way to build that road. It’s counter-intuitive.

So, now, what is Mexico going to do? Drag the troubled PTSD Marine through hell and spend Mexican money to keep him in a lousy prison cell and drag this out for months, maybe years? The judicial process is important, but this is stupid and slow.

This Marine volunteered to fight for our lives and he did — two tours in Afghanistan. So, now it’s our turn to fight for him. President Obama, make a phone call. Use our nation’s good will. Get that judicial process accelerated. Don’t leave this Marine behind. Bring our Marine home. And when we get him home, time for the V.A. to step up. Help him.

That’s my “Off the Record” comment tonight.


CNN also reported in its May 9 article:

Tahmooressi wrote a statement of innocence to U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, “I accidentally drove into Mexico with 3 guns … a rifle (AR-15), a .45 cal pistol and a 12 gauge pump shotgun with no intensions (sic) on being in Mexico or being involved in any criminal activities.  I have rights to all 3 weapons. They are under my name … Please help me.”

Hunter, a California Republican, is among several lawmakers who have recently begun petitioning for Tahmooressi’s release. Last week, Hunter wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging him to get involved.

Also, in a bipartisan congressional letter addressed to Mexico’s attorney general on May 8, Hunter wrote:  “Mexico’s Attorney General is in a position to deal with Andrew’s case and ensure its quick resolution … it is necessary that the AG intervene and expedite proceedings at the very least. And so far there’s been no validation from Mexico that Andrew didn’t make a directional mistake at the border.”

The Mexican attorney general’s office confirmed Tahmooressi’s arrest on a weapons charge but could not offer more details about his case.

Resources

Sign the petition asking President Obama to help Sgt Tahmooressi at:
petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/demand-release-usmc-sgt-tahmooressi-suffering-ptsd-mexico-imprisonment/qslJk2Xd


Watch Greta Van Susteren’s segment that aired on Monday night [May 19th]: