Andrew Tahmooressi, the former Marine who has spent the last four months in jail after getting caught entering Mexico with three illegal weapons and over four-hundred rounds of ammo, is back in jail tonight after his second full day in court. During today’s hearing, four witnesses were questioned by Tahmooressi’s attorney: two customs employees and two soldiers, who participated in the arrest on March 31, 2014.
Via Twitter, his third attorney hired-to-date, Fernando Benitez, continues to focus on what he claims are human rights violations committed against his client, including that it apparently took Customs officials almost eight hours to deliver Tahmooressi to the Federal Prosecutor on the night of his arrest.
Before the start of today’s hearing, Attorney Javier Lopez Lopez, who represents the Mexican Customs Agents, indicated that this is normal and that the transfer could take up to twelve hours on occasion.
Attorney Benitez also cites procedural errors that occurred prior to his arrest, during inspection of his vehicle.
In a Twitter post, Benitez says he is “rendered speechless by the arrogance with which Mexican Customs can justify violating the Constitution, in favor of observing secondary laws.” Benitez claims the written order was filled in after performing the search (and not prior to as required), appears to be altered, is missing 11 pages, and bears the wrong date.
If the approach of attacking procedural errors fails to get the case thrown out, Attorney Benitez will have to shift his defense strategy, and attempt to prove that Tahmooressi – who had spent the day in Tijuana and had visited on multiple occasions before–somehow got lost and did not see the signs. This argument doesn’t hold water too well, as Mexico’s Customs Authority and government is not obligated to post signage, and many arguments supporting the fact that there is plenty of signage can be leveled against Tahmooressi.
His familiarity with the area after multiple visits would also come in to play. Customs authorities have also indicated that the three weapons were loaded and ready to fire. Undermining Tahmooressi’s credibility further is the fact that transportation of loaded and unlocked weapons is a crime under California law.
The reason why Attorney Benitez is focusing on these procedural concerns is that an illegal search equates to illegal obtention of evidence, and would justify the case getting thrown out in its entirety. This of course would mean that whatever the intent or harm caused by Tahmooressi’s illegal transportation and possession of weapons in Mexico would be irrelevant.
This legal strategy has worked before for Benitez, who also represented former Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon when his residence was raided and federal officials reportedly seized 88 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition back in 2011. The raid and search was performed without a warrant, and after a judge ruled that all evidence was deemed inadmissible the case against Hank Rhon was thrown out.
According to the official Tahmooressi Facebook page, Jill Tahmooressi, Andrew’s mother, is now back in the U.S. and it is unclear when the next hearing will be. A press conference has been scheduled for tomorrow. Both Tahmooressi’s mother and his attorney claim that the hearing was successful.