NEW: Yanira Maldonado calls for those who arrested her to "repent"
Maldonado's attorney cites security camera footage as crucial evidence
Maldonado was accused of smuggling drugs on a bus
Mexican court determines prosecutors did not provide evidence.
An American woman who was released from a Mexican jail cried out for joy when she crossed the border into Arizona. “I’m home! Finally!” Yanira Maldonado exclaimed.
Mexican authorities detained her last week and put her behind bars over allegations she tried to smuggle 12 pounds of marijuana under a bus seat.
She and her husband, Gary, were traveling from Mexico back to the United States when their bus was stopped and searched. Yanira Maldonado allegedly was sitting above the illegal stash.
Maldonado’s case sparked widespread media coverage and attention from U.S. lawmakers as family members pushed for her freedom. At a press conference early Friday in Nogales, Arizona, she thanked journalists, crediting them for her expedited release.
The quality of her conditions in jail also improved as the media coverage increased, she told CNN affiliate KPNX-TV in Phoenix.
A court official delivered the good news to her in jail Thursday. “I screamed,” Maldonado said.
The Arizonan and mother of seven had consistently denied the charges against her, and the court determined that the prosecutors did not provide evidence.
Her husband, Gary, tearfully embraced his wife after her release.
Though the court released her back to the United States, legal proceedings are not completely over, Gary Maldonado said. But his wife’s attorney in Mexico will take care of them in her absence.
Security footage revealed
Security camera footage revealed in court Thursday shows Maldonado and her husband boarding a bus in Mexico last week. They are carrying a purse, two blankets and two bottles of water.
It’s an everyday scene that plays out at bus stations around the world. But in this case, defense attorney Francisco Benitez argues that the images are a crucial piece of evidence.
Why? Because nothing they’re carrying, he argues, could hold the amount of marijuana that Yanira Maldonado is accused of smuggling.
Video footage suggests that someone else brought the marijuana aboard the bus, the lawyer said.
The packages of marijuana allegedly recovered from under Maldonado’s seat would not have fit in her purse, Benitez said.
Maldonado’s attorneys also presented documents that show that she and her husband, Gary, have no criminal records in the United States, Benitez said.
Her attorneys also presented documents that show that she and her husband have no criminal records in the United States, Benitez said.
Word that the surveillance video had been shown in court was a big relief, Gary Maldonado told reporters Thursday night.
“That was the key that would help us prove her innocence,” he said.
“It showed right on the film clear as day there’s no way you could carry 12 pounds or 5.7 kilos with one arm. You could see me fold the blankets curled up,” he said.
The Mexican military officials who arrested Maldonado haven’t made their case yet in court. The soldiers were scheduled to appear Wednesday but didn’t show.
Mexican authorities arrested Maldonado on May 22 as she and her husband were on their way back to Arizona.
Mexican authorities arrested Maldonado, a U.S. citizen, on May 22 as she and her husband were on their way back to Arizona.
Gary Maldonado said he believes Mexican soldiers at the checkpoint wanted a bribe. A Mexican state official also told CNN it appears that Maldonado was framed.
Yanira Maldonado does not necessarily think she was directly targeted. “Someone smuggled those in there, and I probably sat in the wrong seat,” she said.
Nonetheless, she called on those who arrested her to “repent,” find “respectable work” and stop making people suffer.
A regional office of Mexico’s defense ministry said troops conducting a routine investigation stopped the bus Maldonado was riding in and found 12.5 pounds (5.7 kilograms) of a substance that appeared to be marijuana under her seat.
Troops turned the case over to the Mexican attorney general’s office, the defense ministry said. Maldonado is being housed in a women’s prison in Nogales while authorities decide her fate.
In an interview Wednesday with CNN, Maldonado said she has been turning to Scripture to survive the ordeal.