Mexico Releases Arizona Mom Accused of Drug Smuggling
Yanira Maldonado is exonerated after officials found marijuana under her bus seat.
A Mormon mother of seven from Arizona has been released from a Mexican prison after her charges of drug smuggling were dropped. Yanira Maldonado, 42, a naturalized US citizen born in Mexico, was arrested by Mexican military officials last week after they found nearly 12 pounds of marijuana under the seat of the commercial bus she was taking from Mexico to Phoenix. The judge in her case determined she was no longer a suspect, after officials reviewed security footage that showed Maldonado and her husband Gary boarding a bus in Mexico with only blankets, bottles of water and her purse in hand. Two relatives who accompanied them to the bus station in Los Mochis and two passengers on the bus also testified that she didn't have any drugs. Gary says he was originally the one arrested, but military officials decided to release him and arrest her after she begged to come along and serve as a translator for her husband, who doesn't speak Spanish. He also claims authorities originally demanded $5,000 for her release, but the bribe fell through. "We never thought this could happen," he said. Mexico decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and heroin, but drug trafficking still carries stiff penalties. Buses are reportedly becoming an increasingly common mode of transportation for traffickers bound for the US. Jose Luis Manjarrez, a spokesman for federal prosecutors in Mexico, said Mexican law doesn't specify minimum or maximum sentences for drug crimes and instead lets judges make their rulings on a case by case basis.