A Mexican judge freed Maldonado after video surveillance indicated she was not carrying 12 pounds of Marijuana into a bus heading to the U.S. from Mexico.
By H. Nelson Goodson
May 31, 2013
Nogales, Sonora, Mexico - On Thursday, a Mexican judge after reviewing the alleged drug trafficking case against Yanira Maldonado, 42, of Goodyear, Arizona for nine hours decided to release her from custody around 11:23 p.m. Maldonado was held in jail for nine days and after surveillance video indicated earlier in the day that she couldn't have attempted to smuggle 12 pounds of marijuana into a bus headed to the U.S., the judge finally released her from custody.
Maldonado was detained on May 22, after Mexican military police at a Benjamin Hill checkpoint discovered several packages of marijuana under her seat in a bus during a routine search for drugs or contraband. Even several bus passengers had testified that Maldonado and her husband weren't carrying any packages large enough to contain marijuana on the bus.
Maldonado and her husband Gary boarded a Tufesa passenger bus in Mochis, Sinaloa and were heading back to the U.S.
She called for authorities to check for fingerprints on the packages and to review surveillance video while boarding the bus to confirm that she in no way was trying to smuggle drugs. Video surveillance presented in a court hearing on Thursday by her attorney that was reviewed, indicated that neither Maldonado or her husband had the packages of marijuana on them while boarding the bus to get back to the U.S. after attending a funeral for one of her aunts in Mexico. The Maldonado's in the video were seen with two blankets, a water bottle and she was only carrying a purse, which was not big enough to carry large packages of marijuana. The blankets were folded in such a way they could not be used to hide the packages.
She and her huband are Mormons and have seven children and two grandchildren. Maldonado earns about $20,000 per month as a disability care provider. Her husband also earns about $36,000 per month in salary, indicating that they don't need to smuggle drugs to make money, according to her attorney.
Maldonado's attorney José Francisco Benitez Paz told the media that she had lived a nightmare for nine days, but is happy to leave Mexico. Maldonado a Mexican national became a U.S. citizen and is living in Arizona.
The federal Mexican prosecutor plans to appeal the decision to release Maldonado and the case could drag on for several months, despite clear evidence that Maldonado couldn't have been smuggling marijuana. Maldonado's attorney will handle the case in Mexico in her absence. She can't return to Mexico to visit her family until the case is cleared up and close.
The Maldonado's believe that they were framed and the Mexican military police and authorities just wanted a bribe to let them go without charges.