Valley woman still jailed in Mexico, more testimony expected - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Valley woman still jailed in Mexico, more testimony expected

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PHOENIX -

A Goodyear mother didn't get out of a Mexican jail Tuesday as her family had hoped. She's been accused of attempting to smuggle 12 pounds of marijuana.

Her family says she is innocent and she's been in jail now for nearly a week.

According to her family, Yanira Maldonado spent most of Tuesday in Mexican court. But the judge didn't make any kind of decision. For her family, the wait is agonizing.

Yanira and her husband Gary were on their way back from a funeral when Mexican authorities stopped the bus they were riding near Hermosillo and ordered everyone off and searched it.

They claimed they found more than 12 pounds of marijuana strapped to the bottom of the couple's seats.

First they accused both of them of smuggling the drugs -- then only arrested Yanira.

"We are finding that there is so much red tape and bureaucracy in the Mexican government that even to get evidence that will easily prove their innocence to the judge is huge, huge bureaucratic mess," Brandon Klippel, Yanira's brother-in-law, told us Monday night.

According to Klippel, four members of her family testified in court Tuesday. One of them was the relative who dropped them off at the bus station.

More testimony from family members and witnesses is expected Wednesday.

"The witnesses who came forward and said they saw them enter the bus without anything with them, they saw they were the last ones on the bus, we were able to get also some testimony from family members that said that they were at the funeral with them, we have the documentation that the funeral took place, and today the military personnel, who were there at the checkpoint, they will be testifying and our attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine them," said Klippel.

In addition, the Mexican federales who arrested Yanira are expected to tell their side of the story at Wednesday's hearing.

"One thing we've realized is that if you get arrested and you're detained, unless you have someone on the outside helping you out, you're really at the whim of the system," said Dustin Jones, attorney for Maldonado. "I've got all of the legal documents they've provided us and they're replete with all kinds of false allegations that we're having to defend and it's been quite a chore."

Yanira's husband Gary says his 42-year-old wife had nothing to do with the marijuana allegedly found on the bus.

"We just had our witnesses testify. I did my declaration, Yanira did hers yesterday," Gary Maldonado told us by phone. "It's looking promising like our case is solid and theirs looks weak."

Gary told us the process of freeing his wife is nothing like the justice system here.

"What they do is they gather up all the testimonies and then the judge will have her secretary/lawyer type all the stuff up and then she'll give a recommendation what she thinks to the judge. The judge will decide the case from reading all of the evidence, who weighs more in evidence."

Yanira, who is a U.S. citizen of 17 years, is a devout Mormon and mother raising 7 children. Anna Soto is one of her daughters.

"Just let her come home. Let her come home. She is innocent," said Soto Monday night.

"You have 72 hours. Then in 72 hours she will be either released free or she will have to be processed into the system and she'll be in a federal prison. She has to go through that 72 hours, but she was able to get an extension until Friday at 6 p.m.," added Maldonado.

"I know she's gunna be home by Friday. [I] keep praying, that's all I can really do," said Soto.

U.S. Senator Jeff Flake has been in contact with the Mexican embassy and the family.

In a statement, the Mexican embassy said, "Mrs. Maldonado's rights to a defense counsel and due process are being observed. As the process is ongoing and a preliminary decision by the judge is due soon, no further comments will be made at this time."

When the judge will make a decision is the big question. The family hopes to know something by Friday at the latest.

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