Arizona Mother Yanira Maldonado Accused of Drug Smuggling

mexico drug charges

An American mother of seven children is in jail in Mexico accused of drug smuggling.  She is a member of the ‘Church of Latter Day Saints’, or Mormons.

Yanira Maldonado has been in tears.  She said that since she was arrested last week she has spent her days “Reading the scriptures, reading the Book of Mormon, praying, fasting,” Maldonado told CNN. “And I’ve been appreciating all the support that I’ve been getting from my family, my husband, my children, and everybody out there reaching out to help.”

She continued to maintain her innocence on Wednesday.  “I’m a good mom. I love the gospel. I’m LDS. And we work hard to have what we have,” she said. “You know, we’re not rich, but we’re very honest and we always do our best to help other people.”

Maldonado, 42, was detained a week ago after Mexican soldiers discovered twelve pounds of marijuana under her bus seat in Hermosillo.

She is being represented by her brother-in-law Brandon Klippel.  He said Wednesday’s testimony by the soldiers was crucial.

“This is the crux of the prosecution, so today is key,” Klippel said.

Maldonado’s arrest has prompted outrage in the U.S. among politicians and her family members, who say she was framed when her bus was stopped at a military checkpoint last week.

A Mexican state official also told CNN it appears that Yanira Maldonado was framed.

Maldonado’s daughter visited her in jail, and has returned to the United States.  Anna Soto told reporters:  “She held my hand and told me everything was going to be OK,” Soto told ABC News. “I want my mom home. Please. I just want her home.”

She accused the Mexican authorities of imprisoning her mother to collect a bribe.  “I don’t think it really matters anymore who put it there, what happened,” she said. “What they’re trying to get, the money. It’s not about that to me anymore. I mean who cares, just bring her back. Let her come home.”

Mexican authorities at the embassy in Washington claim her “rights to a defense counsel and due process are being observed.”

The AP revealed that Maldonado is a naturalized citizen who was born in Mexico.

The situation began on May 22nd, when Yanira Maldonado, and her husband Gary were returning from a funeral.  They were stopped at a checkpoint outside of Hermosillo when the alleged drug discovery was discovered.  Everyone was huddled into a small room at the checkpoint, and their luggage was x-rayed.  “After everyone on the bus had been waiting over two hours, a soldier approached Gary, took his identification and said, ‘Unfortunately, there were drugs found under your seat,'” Klippel wrote in an account on the family’s Facebook page.  Later they said they were mistaken, and the drugs were found under his wife’s seat.

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.

Klippel has had discussions with witnesses in the courtroom and members of the military, and believes that the unfortunate incident will be settled in the next couple of days.

“Although we are disappointed to hear that she will not be released today,” he said, “we are very encouraged by the strong evidence and witnesses proving her innocence.”

A Sonora official was startled by the accusations. “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.”

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.

James Turnage

The Guardian Express

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