(NOGALES, Ariz.) — An Arizona mother of seven jailed in Mexico for allegedly trying to smuggle 12 pounds of marijuana into the United States is set to be released.
Maldonado, 42, denied that she was trying to smuggle marijuana under her bus seat May 22 as she and her husband, Gary, were heading back to the United States after attending a funeral.
Her family maintained she was falsely accused and wrongfully imprisoned in the border town of Nogales, Mexico.
At the checkpoint, 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.
Yanira Maldonado, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico, has no criminal history.
In court Wednesday, Maldonado’s lawyer argued that soldiers had presented inconsistent testimony about two packages of marijuana they said had recovered, with some saying both were found under his client’s seat and others saying they were found under two separate seats.
Mexican officials provided local media with photos that they said were of the packages Maldonado is accused of smuggling. Each was about 5 inches high and 20 inches wide.
Maldonado’s lawyer said the packets of drugs were attached to the seat bottoms with metal hooks, calling that a task that would have been impossible for a passenger boarding normally to do.
Maldonado claims she had nothing more than her purse, two blankets, and two bottles of water when she boarded the bus — not the 12 pounds of marijuana she was accused of hiding onboard.
Surveillance video reviewed by ABC News seemed to back up that claim. In the video, Maldonado can be seen handing blankets to her husband and boarding with only her purse and water bottles — no sign of 12 pounds of marijuana.
Maldonado could have spent at least 10 years in one of Mexico’s notoriously violent jails if convicted.
Hearings were set to resume Friday.
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