(NOGALES, Ariz.) — An Arizona mother of seven choked back tears while trying to make sense of how she went from sitting on a bus in Mexico to a jail cell, accused of smuggling drugs, and now at the mercy of the country’s justice system.
Yanira Maldonado said the events of the past week have been a “nightmare,” but is holding out hope that she will soon be released because she has “nothing to hide.”
Maldonado, 42, denies that she was trying to smuggle 12 pounds of marijuana under her bus seat on May 22 as she and her husband, Gary, were heading back to the United States after attending a funeral.
Her family says she was falsely accused and wrongfully imprisoned in the border town of Nogales, Mexico.
“It was horrible,” Maldonado told ABC News’ Phoenix affiliate KNXV-TV Wednesday in a jail-house interview.
“I was in shock. I’m like this is not real. This is not happening. I don’t know. I thought maybe this was a set-up or a joke or something. I was just waiting for it to end but I realized that it’s real, that I’m being detained,” she continued.
At the check point, the soldiers who accused her of trafficking drugs, took her into custody. Her husband was released after initially being suspected of smuggling.
Maldonado said a Mexican official told her she had to plead guilty despite her insistence that she was innocent.
“She’s like, ‘I’m here to help. I’m here to put criminals behind bars,’ and I thought, ‘Thank God. I’m innocent.’ So, I thought that she was here to help me and she didn’t,” Maldonado, a devout Mormon, said.
It’s not the first time family members say they were let down by officials in Mexico in the past week. The family said an attorney in Mexico told them they could bribe the judge.
Gary Maldonado frantically had family wire him $5,000 for the bribe. He says, however, that although the money was offered, it was not accepted.
Yanira Maldonado, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico, has no criminal history. Hearings are set to resume Friday and the judge could decide whether the case goes to trial.
If convicted, Maldonado could spend at least 10 years in one of Mexico’s notoriously violent jails. But she remains confident the truth will prevail.
“I’m going to be free. I’m going to be free. I’m not guilty. I don’t have nothing to hide,” she said.
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