I strongly believe that within the next four weeks U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi will be released from El Hongo Federal Prison in Mexico and able to walk on American soil once again.
Young lawyers are taught to manage expectations. “Under-promise and over-deliver” is the rule – but there are exceptions. When the evidence is coming out so strongly in his favor, an experienced lawyer can take the gamble and say what he really thinks.
I have been providing legal and spiritual support to Andrew and his mom, Jill, since May. I assisted Jill in hiring Fernando Benitez, Andrew’s Mexican lawyer, and have worked closely with him during the last three court hearings.
Andrew had no intention of entering Mexico with firearms, and there is proof. The video evidence taken by Mexican customs officials at the border, which was entered into evidence at the hearing in Tijuana Federal Court on Sept. 9, confirms Andrew’s version of the facts and impeaches the testimony of customs officers who previously testified under oath.
It is clear that Andrew received the green light to enter Mexico without being stopped, and that he was the one who decided to contact a customs officer in an effort to find a way to turn around. Therefore, he lacked the necessary criminal intent to commit the crimes alleged.
The border video also contradicts the customs officer’s testimony on the constitutional issues of illegal search and prolonged detention.
The Mexican Constitution requires that a search warrant be issued prior to a search of a vehicle stopped at the border. The video clearly shows customs officials searching the truck long before the search warrant was issued, a point specifically denied by customs officers when they testified.
Further, the timestamps on the video show that Andrew was subjected to a prolonged detention and was not timely provided an interpreter, both of which are violations of Mexican law. These violations are sufficient for the judge to declare a mistrial and suppress the introduction into evidence of the firearms and ammunition illegally seized in the search.
Finally, and perhaps most profoundly, Mexican law requires that inmates in Mexican prisons receive rehabilitation treatment to prepare them for reinsertion into society.
On Sept. 9, a psychiatrist was sworn to testify about his testing of Andrew for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Should he confirm the diagnosis of at least three other experts that Andrew suffers from PTSD, Andrew could be released for humanitarian reasons, as Mexico does not have the ability to properly treat such a condition. Mexican military personnel have not suffered through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and therefore there is no recognized protocol for PTSD.
Enough evidence has been submitted to prove Andrew’s lack of criminal intent and the violation of his human rights at the border, and soon – within 10 days – we expect further confirmation will surface that he continues to suffer from PTSD.
Despite having another hearing within the Mexican court system scheduled for Sept. 29, the time has come for Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi to be released from El Hongo Prison.
No purveyor of justice could honestly believe that Andrew posed a threat to Mexican authority or its people. Since Mexican law provides for humanitarian considerations regarding the care and treatment of its prisoners, a just and/or compassionate ruling ordering his release should be forthcoming.
Philip R. Dunn is president of Serving California, a non-profit foundation dedicated to the care and treatment of veterans suffering from PTSD. He has also been a criminal defense attorney for 30 years. He is representing Sergeant Tahmooressi and his family in the U.S.