Marine jailed in Mexico is upbeat and healthy, two congressmen say

Posted at 7:26 AM, Jun 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-23 07:26:41-04

(CNN) — A U.S. Marine Corps reservist jailed in Mexico for almost three months is said to be upbeat and healthy, according to two U.S. lawmakers who visited Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi over the weekend.

Republican Rep. Ed Royce of California, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Republican Rep. Matt Salmon from Arizona, chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, traveled to Tecate, Mexico, on Saturday to meet with Tahmooressi.

The decorated Marine has been jailed in Mexico on weapons charges since April 1 after driving his truck into Tijuana — he says accidentally — with three personal fire arms, including a shotgun, .45 caliber pistol and an AR-15.

All of the guns were legally registered in the United States. But in Mexico, firearm possession is almost completely illegal.

Tahmooressi was said to be in good spirits, Royce said in a statement.

A photo of Tahmooressi, standing in between the two lawmakers, was posted to the Twitter page of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It showed what appears to be a healthy Tahmooressi with a slight smile on his face.

“After visiting with Sgt. Tahmooressi for the second time in two weeks, I remain confident that his situation is improving and will end with his release in the near future,” Salmon said in a statement. “His spirits remain upbeat and he has full confidence in his new attorney,” he added.

Tahmooressi is now on his third attorney, Tijuana-based lawyer Fernando Benitez, said his mother, Jill Tahmooressi. The first two defense attorneys were dismissed by the family after a conflict of how to proceed with the Marine’s legal defense, the family told CNN.

“Last week, Andrew was despondent because for a portion of it, he was without legal representation. We’re more optimistic now,” his mother said in a phone call with CNN.

But more than 80 days since he was first imprisoned, Tahmooressi’s defense still has not submitted evidence to the court to counter the prosecutor’s evidence, his mother told CNN.

“With Mr. Benitez on the case, it’s a good thing,” she said. “He’s a veteran Tijuana attorney not fearful to take on high-profile cases. His strategy is competent.”

Tahmooressi was initially held in Tijuana’s La Mesa Penitentiary for the first month. There, his family says, he was subjected to torture by the prison guards and inmates.

“He told me that he tried to kill himself [while he was in La Mesa] because they were going to torture him for information about our family,” his mother told CNN. “By the grace of God he didn’t hit an artery [when he tried to slice his neck].”

Now in El Hongo Penitentiary in Tecate, Mexico, about an hour and a half east of Tijuana, Tahmooressi is said to be doing well, according to his family.

While U.S. lawmakers continue to work with Mexican officials, it remains unclear when Tahmooressi might have a court hearing.

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