U.S. Marine Held In Mexico Suffering 'Inhumane' Treatment, Friend Says

By: Nick Valencia. Jason Morris and Holly Yan (CNN)--
By: Nick Valencia. Jason Morris and Holly Yan (CNN)--

(CNN) -- A Marine imprisoned in Mexico is being treated more humanely since being moved to a new prison, his mother said Friday, but she is "mortified" by the alleged abuse previously dished out by guards at another penitentiary.

"He called me last night. He's in much better conditions, though still imprisoned," Jill Tahmooressi said. "He considers his current position to be safer than what he experienced at the state penitentiary called La Mesa."

Previously, a close friend of Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi's told CNN that the Marine was in a Mexican jail cell, his body sometimes tied to a bed by all four limbs.

Tahmooressi, 25, has been in jail for almost two months, accused of entering Mexico illegally with three weapons. His family insists that he legally owned the firearms and crossed the border accidentally.

It is illegal to bring guns into Mexico.

His mother says there's "absolutely no chance" he intended to drive into Mexico with the guns. That day, March 31, Tahmooressi had walked across the border into Tijuana to patronize an establishment popular with Marines from Camp Pendleton, she said.

"So he had no intention of then driving into Mexico. He had just walked out of Mexico," she said.

But when the Marine left the stateside parking lot near the border, he took a wrong turn, thinking he was heading north, but the road curved around to the border, and there was no turnaround point, Jill Tahmooressi said.

Her son realized his mistake, immediately disclosed to the border guards that he had weapons and requested that he be allowed to turn around, she said.

"The first thing he said to the first person that stopped him was, 'I got here accidentally; please let me turn around. I have three guns in my truck,' " his mother said, adding that a 911 tape backs up that story.

Fight for freedom

Although several U.S. lawmakers and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have weighed in on the case, the fate of the Afghanistan war veteran remains in limbo.

Jill Tahmooressi said no one from the State Department in Washington had contacted her, but she heard from Bill Whitaker, chief of American citizens services at the U.S. Consulate General in Tijuana.

"I immediately let Mr. Whitaker know that Andrew was abused at the hands of the guards," she said.

Among the allegations she's heard, she said, are that the guards at La Mesa stripped her son, handcuffed his hands and feet to a bedpost, left him standing overnight and hit him so many times in the stomach that he couldn't breathe.

"I'm mortified," she said. "That was at the hands of the guards that were to be protecting him. He's an inmate at a prison. You would expect the guard to protect their inmates, but instead, he had nearly been executed by the gang members that were in the cell."

Making it even more difficult to cope is Tahmooressi's PTSD, she said, and one of his close friends told CNN he was having trouble with the condition before being locked up.

"His PTSD started from combat. Now, he's got a whole other load of PTSD that he is going to get when he gets out of jail," said Sam Vranicar, who served with Tahmooressi in Afghanistan during a 2010 tour.

Tahmooressi has been able to speak with his friend when he calls Vranicar's house collect from the Mexican jail. The two have talked about 10 times, Vranicar said.

Vranicar said he's astonished that a Marine -- or anyone -- could be treated the way his friend describes.

"Being tied to a bed in four-point restraints and joint manipulation restraints -- like ways that a POW would be treated ... it's just ridiculous," Vranicar said. "I don't think it's right for any American to be in a Mexican jail treated like that. They are our neighboring ally, and it's inhumane."

'A different guy'

Vranicar had urged Tahmooressi to move from Florida to San Diego so that he could help him seek treatment for PTSD.

"As soon as he got out here, I realized that the Andrew that I used to know has gone," Vranicar said. "He became a different guy."

Vranicar and his wife noticed his friend was acting distant.

"I took him to La Jolla, he got diagnosed and he started seeing people on a regular basis," Vranicar said.

Not long afterward, he said, Tahmooressi made the wrong turn at an exit close to the Mexican border.

He had all his belongings, including his guns, with him, Vranicar said.

"It wasn't just his guns that he crossed with," he said. "It was everything he had. All his worldly possessions."

His mother said Tahmooressi was searching for permanent housing and often stayed in San Diego hotels.

It's unclear exactly when Tahmooressi will see a courtroom again.

On Wednesday, a judge started and then quickly suspended a hearing after Tahmooressi fired his attorneys, a Mexican judicial source said.

The source told CNN that Tahmooressi's next court hearing will be June 4, but Jill Tahmooressi said the next hearing is still weeks away, as it will take time for the new attorney to be briefed.

The case has drawn attention from U.S. lawmakers and Kerry, who told CNN on Wednesday that he spoke with Mexican authorities about it last week.

"We are working on determining whether or not certain evidence that has been presented is meeting the standard that's necessary to be able to hold that young Marine, and we're trying to find out exactly what the fact pattern is, but we are working on that," he said.

911 call: 'I crossed the border by accident'

"I'm at the border of Mexico right now. And my problem is, I, I crossed the border by accident, and I have three guns in my truck, and they're trying to take my guns from me," the Marine told a 911 dispatcher in March.

In a recording of the call released by U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, Tahmooressi appears unsure of whether he crossed the border and exasperated that Mexican authorities are trying to take his weapons.

"There's nothing I can help you with then, sir," the 911 dispatcher says after learning he's in Mexico. "I do apologize. You're not on American soil anymore."

Tahmooressi asks whether authorities have a right to take his guns.

The dispatcher tells him he should have seen large warning signs on the freeway saying it's illegal to enter Mexico with guns.

"There are warning signs that do say that as you're driving down the freeway, before you enter Mexico," she says.

"Yeah, I was hoping there would be a turnaround point," he says, "but there never was."

He had intended to drive to meet friends in San Ysidro, California, before he was arrested.

Letter to lawmakers

The Marine has tried to appeal to U.S. lawmakers.

"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," Tahmooressi wrote in a statement of innocence to Hunter, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee.

"I have rights to all 3 weapons," he wrote. "They are under my name. ... Please help me."

Hunter is among several lawmakers who have petitioned for Tahmooressi's release.

"Mexico's Attorney General is in a position to deal with Andrew's case and ensure its quick resolution," Hunter said in a statement this month. "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."

Jill Tahmooressi started a White House petition May 1 that demands her son's release. As of early Friday, it had more than 81,000 signatures. If 19,000 more people sign it by Saturday, it will spur a response by President Barack Obama.

CNN's Nick Parker, Ashley Fantz, Rosalina Nieves and Rafael Romo contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Posted by Greg Palmer


Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email: feedback@wibw.com
Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 261233651 - wibw.com/a?a=261233651
Gray Television, Inc.