A former Marine Corps sergeant who had been living in San Diego will remain in a Mexican jail after firing his attorney.
Andrew Tahmooressi, 22, was expected to testify before a Mexican judge and question his accusers during a court hearing Wednesday. Instead, he fired his family-hired attorney, Alejandro Osuna.
The case is now delayed until a new legal team is in place.
Tahmooressi was arrested April 1 after driving his black Ford pickup over the border at San Ysidro into Tijuana. Family members said Tahmooressi, who was in possession of three U.S.-registered firearms, got lost near the border after dark and took a wrong turn into Mexico.
It is illegal to bring guns into Mexico. He has spent the last two months in Mexican custody, first in Tijuana then in Tecate.
On Monday, Tahmooressi's mother Jill told NBC 7 that her son said his attorney had instructed him to lie under oath.
The former sergeant originally told Mexican officers that he had never been to Mexico before. His attorney wanted him to stick with that story, but Tahmooressi insisted he needed to tell the court the truth after Zeta, a Tijuana newspaper, published reports that he had traveled to Mexico multiple times.
After being let go, Osuna maintained that his former client is innocent.
“I need to respect whatever they decide. I wish Andrew and his mother all the best. Like I said, Andrew is innocent. Andrew shouldn’t be here. He will get out of this mess he’s in, probably a couple of weeks later,” he said.
The change in legal representation could delay court proceedings up to three weeks. Hearings scheduled for next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday have been continued.
Tahmooressi came to San Diego in March for treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. The reservist, originally from Florida, has served two tours in Afghanistan.
The former Marine has gained the support of elected officials, including Rep. Duncan Hunter, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Sen. Marco Rubio. His family has also started a White House petition asking for his release.
Last week, Tahmooressi’s mother told NBC 6 Miami that she was told Secretary of State John Kerry had discussed her son’s release during a recent trip to Mexico. Before Wednesday's hearing, the U.S. State Department released a statement outlining the government's efforts to help the Marine:
The Department of State takes seriously its obligation to assist U.S. citizens abroad, and stands ready to provide all appropriate consular services to U.S. citizens in need. The U.S. Consulate and U.S. Embassy have talked to numerous Mexican officials regarding Mr. Tahmooressi’s case, including the authorities at the prison and the Mexican Foreign Ministry. On May 6, the Embassy discussed the case with senior officials of Mexico’s Office of the Attorney General. Secretary Kerry also raised it during his visit to Mexico on May 21. Consular officers have visited Mr. Tahmooressi eleven times since his arrest on March 31. We have raised any concerns we might have about his treatment with the appropriate authorities.
In a 911 audio recording from the night Tahmooressi was arrested, the former Marine Corps sergeant told the dispatcher he had driven into Mexico by accident.
Tahmooressi: “Ok, yeah, I was hoping that there would be a turnaround point, but there never was."
Dispatcher: “There’s a turnaround point before you get across the border."
Tahmooressi: “Yeah, but now where I was. There was no turnaround point.”
Dispatcher: “Well, that means you were, well, way far down then. Unfortunately, you’re on Mexican soil. There’s nothing we can do. I apologize.”
Tahmooressi’s supporters are scheduled to rally for his release Wednesday evening in San Ysidro near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Check back for updates on this developing story.