The husband of an Arizona mother of seven accused of trying to sneak 12 pounds of marijuana into the U.S. says his wife is no drug smuggler.
Yanira Maldonado, 42, and her husband Gary said they were returning from the funeral of her aunt last Wednesday when the passenger bus they were on was stopped at a Mexican military checkpoint about 90 miles from the U.S. border. Authorities ordered everyone off, searched the bus and then claimed to have found the marijuana under her seat. Yanira Maldonado, a devout Mormon, has been in custody ever since, and is now being held in a jail in Nogales pending her next court appearance.
“It’s looking promising, like our case is solid and theirs looks weak.”
– Gary Maldonado, husband of woman accused of pot smuggling
“We just had our witnesses testify, I did my declaration,” Gary Maldonado, her husband, told MyFoxPhoenix.com by phone. “Yanira did hers yesterday. It’s looking promising, like our case is solid and theirs looks weak.”
Gary Maldonado, who said authorities initially demanded a $5,000 bribe, said the Mexican legal system is a far cry from the judicial process in the U.S.
“What they do is they gather up all the testimonies and then the judge will have her secretary-lawyer type all the stuff us and then she’ll give a recommendation of what she thinks to the judge,” he said. “The judge will decide the case from reading all the evidence, who weighs more in evidence.”
Brandon Klippel, Gary Maldonado’s brother-in-law, told the station that four members of Maldonado’s family testified in court Tuesday, including a relative who dropped them off at the bus station. More testimony is expected Wednesday. Klippel said witnesses testified that the Maldonados entered the bus “without anything with them” and that documentation exists confirming that the funeral took place.
“Our greatest fear right now is that our sister will be lost,’’ Yanira Maldonado’s brother-in-law, Brandon Klippel, told Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday. “One of the things the attorney said to us right in the beginning is that once you’re in the federal prison system (in Mexico), they move you around without keeping good records. In fact, she was lost for the first day in the prison system when this first started. “If she’s moved and transported around, we may never see our sister again, and that’s something that would just be devastating to our family.”
Yanira Maldonado, a U.S. citizen for 17 years, is a devout Mormon and mother of seven. One of her daughters, Anna Soto, said she’s innocent and should be allowed to return to Goodyear, a suburb of Phoenix.
“Just let her come home,” Soto said. “Let her come home. She is innocent.”
Soto said she hopes her mother will be home by Friday.
“[I] keep praying, that’s all I can really do,” she told MyFoxPhoenix.com.
The Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., said in a statement Tuesday that Yanira Maldonado’s “rights to a defense counsel and due process are being observed.” The embassy didn’t respond to allegations she was framed.
Patrick Ventrell, acting deputy spokesman for the U.S. State Department in Mexico, confirmed Maldonado’s arrest but referred all questions to her attorney and Mexican authorities.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., “is personally monitoring the situation and he has had multiple conversations with the deputy Mexican ambassador,” his office said in a statement.