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Honor Air launches campaign to help free Marine

Andrew Tahmooressi and his sister, Andrea, a chiropractor in Asheville. Andrew Tahmooressi and his sister, Andrea, a chiropractor in Asheville.

HonorAir founder Jeff Miller is launching a fundraising effort aimed at helping to free the U.S. Marine imprisoned in Mexico after crossing the border in a vehicle that contained legally registered weapons.


Miller said Thursday that he wanted to help raise money for Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, but wanted to get the family's blessing. He got that on Wednesday when he heard from Tahmooressi's mother, Jill Tahmooressi, who lives in Florida and has been fighting for her son's release for four months.
"We're very appreciative," she said.

Jill Tahmooressi said she welcomed the fundraising of HonorAir, which has a large following among people who support military veterans. Now using a third attorney after the first two proved to be ineffective or corrupt, Jill  estimates the total legal bills will reach $100,000.

"I estimate $100,000 because there's a similar case that just happened two years ago of a Marine that experienced captivity in a Mexican jail," she said. She has befriended that Marine's mother and learned more about what it took to win freedom in such a case.
According to coverage of the case by Fox News, Tahmooressi, 25, got a lawyer when the Mexican border police first charged him with illegally possessing weapons in that country. The attorney he has now said the first attorney failed to present evidence that might have led a judge to dismiss the case within a three-day window permitted under Mexican law.
"He's highly despondent now because he is going on 124 days of incarceration in a Mexican jail for making a wrong turn. It's just that simple," Jill Tahmooressi said in an interview with the Hendersonville Lightning. "He made a wrong turn and there was no protection for wayward motorists that night March 31, and the one sign on the road he took was covered with graffiti."
An hour-long Fox News special on the Marine's case recreated the route to show how easy it would be to take a wrong turn and how poorly marked the road was. Tahmooressi was driving in San Diego when he made the turn that led him to Mexico.
In a Q&A on the case, the Fox News website answered a question about why the Marine had guns in his vehicle this way: "Tahmooressi had driven cross-country for PTSD treatment in San Diego and was living out of his car. He said he had nearly all of his possessions with him, which included 3 legally registered guns and more than 400 rounds of ammo."
Besides legal bills, Jill Tahmooressi said she wants to raise money to fund her son's treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He had been officially diagnosed with the condition just 18 days before he wound up in Mexico.
"When he got corraled, as soon as he was stopped, he said, 'I got lost and I've got three guns. Can you help me get back to the United States?'
"He nearly lost his life not only to gang members but to the guards," she said. "He's been moved to a safer jail. It's safer because it's the only one accredited by an accrediting body that accredits U.S. jails but it's not a campus. He's held captive in solitary confinement and he hasn't seen the sun in 124 days. He's a Marine, he's on contract until August 2016."
Jill Tahmooressi traveled to Tijuana for a court hearing on July 9 in which Tahmooressi's attorney argued unsuccessfully for his freedom.
"I go to Mexico on Monday. I go to all the court hearings," she said. "This will be our second one before the judge. There is no jury. Supposedly in the Mexican criminal defense system, trials are supposed to be open to the public but that's a fallacy because there's a room 10 feet by 8 feet where literally they cram eight men in suits, including Andrew who's behind bars. Supposedly it's public but judge would not allow me in the room so I had to sit in hallway for eight hours. No media is allowed n the room."
She said the hearing Monday is expected to last eight hours as well.
Miller became outraged about the situation after watching the Fox News special about Tahmooressi on the Fourth of July. He immediately changed the familiar Miller's Drycleaner sign on King Street to express support for the Marine's freedom, adding the vow that the message would stay up until the Mexican court let him go home. He changed it on Thursday to announce that "You can help free Marine Tahmooressi."

If convicted, Tahmooressi could face up to 21 years in Mexican prison. The legal cost so far has depleted Tahmooressi’s savings from his military service, Miller said in a news release, and when he is released he will have no funds to live on.

Jill Tahmooressi told Miller on the phone, "We love that sign. All we have is grassroots and that sign has been wonderful."


Miller said HonorAir will not take an administrative cut from donations made to the Tahmooressi fund.

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To donate visit Honorair.com or send a check to HonorAir, PO Box 331, Hendersonville, NC 28793.