Next week’s court appearance by a U.S. Marine imprisoned in Mexico could turn into a video viewing marathon.
Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who has been held since March 31, when he says he mistakenly crossed into Mexico with three legally-purchased and registered guns in his truck, will be in a Tijuana courtroom on Tuesday, where a judge, prosecutors and his lawyer will view surveillance video made at the border the night he was arrested.
With 90-minute footage from 18 different cameras in evidence, the session could prove lengthy, Tahmooressi’s attorney, Fernando Benitez, told Fox News. What has Benitez most curious is the fact that Mexican Customs officials dragged their feet in turning over the video, to the point that Judge Victor Octavio Luna Escobedo had to order them to comply.
“He set forth an order whereby basically he told Customs, ‘I’m not asking.I’m telling you to deliver the tapes,’” Benitez told Fox.
Benitez said it is likely the judge will fast-forward through irrelevant portions of the video, none of which has audio. And despite Mexican customs officials reluctance to produce it, Benitez doubts there will be a bombshell on the tape.
“It in no way is it a case-maker or a case-breaker,” Benitez said. “I’m willing to accept the possibility that it doesn’t show that much.”
But, Benitez said, “We can assume that what’s in the tape will not support their story.”
The attorney, who once successfully represented former Tijuana mayor and current owner of the Xolos soccer team Jorge Hank Rhon on weapons charges, is working the case on several other fronts. He plans to file a motion to suppress evidence gathered against Tahmooressi on the basis that his detention was illegal from the beginning.
Benitez will also eventually present a report from a psychiatric expert who will focus on Tahmooressi’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a result of two combat tours in Afghanistan. Benitez believes that Tahmooressi cannot receive PTSD treatment in Mexico and an eventual prison sentence would be inconsistent with the country’s policy of providing rehabilitation to prisoners.
Tahmooressi’s team is also working on a video which will show how easy it was to accidentally cross into Mexico on the night of March 31, when the signage was not clear. It’s since been replaced, making future incidents like Tahmooressi’s less likely.
If Tahmooressi is convicted, he faces six to 21 years in prison. Tahmooressi served four years in the Marines before being honorably discharged in November 2012.
Dan Gallo is a Fox News Channel Field Producer based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @DanGallo