Mexican officials miss hearing for Arizona mom Yanira Maldonado, accused of drug smuggling
By: abc15.com staff, wire reports
5:19 AM, May 30, 2013
3:15 PM, May 30, 2013
NOGALES, Mexico - Mexican military officials who put an Arizona mother of seven behind bars were expected to make their case Wednesday, but failed to show up for the court hearing, according to ABC15 crews covering the story in Mexico.
It is unclear at this time why the authorities did not arrive for the proceedings.
A judge is weighing whether to set Yanira Maldonado free from a Mexican jail after authorities accused her of drug smuggling and alleged they found 12 pounds of marijuana under her bus seat.
Maldonado's family denies the charges and says they're optimistic the case against her is crumbling.
"We have high hopes," Anna Soto, Maldonado's daughter, told CNN on Wednesday. "So I'm just looking forward to that. Hopefully, Friday, I'm praying that she will be home and be set free."
It's a situation Yanira Maldonado's family said she never imagined when last week she boarded a bus to head back to the United States after attending a family funeral in Mexico.
Her family accuses authorities of arresting her to get bribe money.
A Mexican state official also told CNN it appears that Yanira Maldonado was framed.
Soto said it was devastating to see her mom in jail over the weekend.
"She's an honest woman. She's innocent. It's not a place for someone of her kind," she told CNN's "Piers Morgan Live" on Tuesday night. "It hurts just to know that she's there, to have seen her there. It's not fair."
From a bus seat to a jail cell
Mexican authorities arrested Maldonado last Wednesday as she and her husband, Gary, were on their way back to Arizona.
During a search of their bus at a military checkpoint in the northwestern state of Sonora, authorities asked everyone to get off.
At first, authorities told Gary Maldonado that marijuana had been found under his seat and arrested him, his father, Larry Maldonado, told CNN. After the father contacted the U.S. Consulate in Hermosillo, authorities said they were mistaken and released Gary.
Then, they charged his wife.
Gary Maldonado said he believes Mexican soldiers at the checkpoint wanted a bribe.
"It's about getting money here," he told CNN's "Starting Point" on Tuesday.
After testifying in court on Tuesday, Maldonado told CNN affiliate KTVK that he was feeling optimistic.
"We're hoping for the best outcome. ... We don't think they have a case," he said.
The Mexican Embassy in Washington said in a statement that a preliminary decision from the judge was expected soon.
Questions about arrest
A Sonora state official with extensive knowledge of the case told CNN there are questions about the arrest.
"Can you imagine?" asked the official, who was not authorized to speak to the media and did not want to be named. "A passenger by himself or herself would have been unable to carry almost six kilos of marijuana onto a bus without being noticed. She must've been framed."
A regional office of Mexico's Defense Ministry said troops conducting a routine investigation stopped the bus Maldonado was riding in and and found 12.5 pounds (5.7 kilograms) of a substance that appeared to be marijuana under her seat.
Troops turned the case over to the Mexican attorney general's office, the defense ministry said. Maldonado is being housed in a women's prison in Nogales while authorities decide her fate.
The Sonora state division of the attorney general's office said the investigation is ongoing and declined to provide additional information about the case against Maldonado.
Her husband was told by authorities that regardless of his wife's guilt or innocence, he would have to pay $5,000 to secure her freedom, the family said.
He was able to cobble together the money but then was told it was too late. His wife had been transferred to another jail.
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake is monitoring the case, his office said.
"Senator Flake is personally monitoring the situation, and he has had multiple conversations with the deputy Mexican ambassador this weekend," Flake's office said Monday.