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Mother of seven freed from Mexican jail, comes home to Arizona

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 31st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

An Arizona mother of seven who was accused of trying to smuggle marijuana into the United States after 12 pounds was found underneath her Mexican tour bus has been freed. After being kept by Mexican authorities, Yanira Maldonado cried with joy at her arrival in Nogales, Arizona. "I'm home! Finally!" she said.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Maldonado had been put behind bars in Mexico over drug allegations. Maldonado and her husband, Gary, were traveling from Mexico back to the United States when their bus was stopped and searched.

The incident created widespread media coverage and attention from U.S. lawmakers. Maldonado in a press conference in Nogales thanked journalists, crediting them for her expedited release. She also said that the quality of her conditions in jail also improved as the media coverage increased. When a court official delivered the good news to her in jail yesterday, "I screamed," Maldonado said.

Maldonado repeatedly denied the charges against her, and the court determined that the prosecutors did not provide evidence. It should be noted that while she has been released to the United States, legal proceedings are not completely over. Her attorney in Mexico will take care of them in her absence.

Security camera footage revealed in court this week shows Maldonado and her husband boarding a bus in Mexico last week. They are carrying a purse, two blankets and two bottles of water. Defense attorney Francisco Benitez argued that the images were a crucial piece of evidence -- nothing they're carrying, Benitez said, could hold the amount of marijuana that Maldonado was accused of smuggling. Furthermore, video footage suggests that someone else brought the marijuana aboard the bus.

Packages of the illegal substance allegedly recovered from under Maldonado's seat would not have fit in her purse, Benitez added.

Her attorneys also presented documents that show that she and her husband have no criminal records in the United States, Benitez said. The surveillance video had been shown in court was a big relief, her husband said.

"That was the key that would help us prove her innocence," he said. "It showed right on the film clear as day there's no way you could carry 12 pounds or 5.7 kilos with one arm," he said.

The Mexican military officials who arrested Maldonado didn't make their case in court. The soldiers were scheduled to appear earlier this week -- but didn't show.

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