Marine veteran out of Mexico jail, home in Florida

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WESTON, Fla. (AP) - A retired U.S. Marine who fought in Afghanistan returned home to Florida on Saturday after spending eight months in a Mexican jail for crossing the border with loaded guns, a case that led U.S. politicians to bring intense pressure on Mexico to release him.

Family spokesman Jon Franks said the private plane carrying Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, his mother and supporters - including former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson - landed at a South Florida airport about 6 a.m.

Tahmooressi was freed Friday night and reunited with his mother, Jill, and then boarded the flight to Florida in San Diego.

"They're just spending time together, trying to figure out what's next," Franks told reporters at a hotel in this suburb west of Fort Lauderdale. "They need some time to decompress." Neither Tahmooressi nor any family members attended the news conference.

Tahmooressi, 26, has said he took a wrong turn on a California freeway that funneled him into a Tijuana port of entry with no way to turn back, and that he had no intention of illegally bringing guns into Mexico. His detention brought calls for his freedom from U.S. politicians, veterans groups and social media campaigns. A U.S. congressional committee held a hearing on the case.

In Mexico, possession of weapons restricted for use by the Army is a federal crime, and the country has been tightening up its border checks to stop the flow of U.S. weapons that have been used by drug cartels.

In his order Friday, the Mexican judge did not make a determination on the illegal arms charges against Tahmooressi but freed him because of his mental state, according to a statement Saturday from Mexico's embassy in the U.S.

Tahmooressi suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, treatment for which Franks said would be the first order of business now that he is back in the U.S.

"It's set up," Franks said. "I think he's going to bounce back pretty quickly."

One other priority: after 214 days in the Mexican jail, Tahmooressi wants to grab some dinner as soon as possible at famed South Beach seafood eatery Joe's Stone Crab, Franks said.

Richardson, the former Democratic governor who grew up in Mexico and has negotiated on a range of international issues, said he met with Tahmooressi in jail in the border city of Tecate, and he had talked to Mexican officials to urge them to release Tahmooressi on humanitarian grounds.

"I respect Mexico's judicial process, and I am pleased that Andrew was released today and will return home to his family," Richardson said in a statement Friday.

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Marine veteran out of Mexico jail, home in Florida
This image taken from a video shows Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi waving after arriving in Miami on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014 in Weston, Fla. Tahmooressi is back home after a Mexican judge ordered his release from jail, where he spent eight months for crossing the border with loaded guns. Family spokesman Jon Franks told reporters that Tahmooressi arrived at a South Florida airport about 6 a.m. Saturday. Franks said Tahmooressi was resting with his family at their home suburban Weston, Fla. (AP Photo/Raul Torres) MANDATORY CREDIT
A photo of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi of Weston, who was arrested in Mexico more than four months ago after he crossed the border in possession of guns and ammunition, in the home of his mother, Jill Tahmooressi, in Weston, Fla., on August 7, 2014. (Carline Jean/Sun Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
Jill Tahmooressi, mother of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who was arrested in Mexico more than four months ago after he crossed the border in possession of guns and ammunition, at her Weston, Fla., home on August 7, 2014. (Carline Jean/Sun Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
Jill Tahmooressi, mother of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi of Weston, Fla., who has been held for six months in a Mexican jail, weeps after reading his letters from confinement and as others recount his heroism in Afghanistan, during a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Sgt. Tahmooressi, who suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome, claims he made an accidental wrong turn March 31 into a border-crossing point in Tijuana when he was arrested because he had guns in his vehicle. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Mexican marines participate in a joint patrol with army, ministerial policemen and relatives of young that went missing during the last weekend clashes in Iguala, Guerrero state, Mexico on October 1, 2014. The fate of 43 missing Mexican students remains a mystery days after they vanished amid a police shooting: A survivor saw dozens bundled into patrol cars but authorities say they may be hiding. The teachers-in-training disappeared after a weekend of violence that left six people dead and 25 wounded in Iguala, a town surrounded by thick forests in the crime-plagued southern state of Guerrero. AFP PHOTO/ Yuri CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Television personality Montel Williams, a veterans advocate and a retired Navy officer, appears before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in support of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi who has been held for six months in a Mexican jail after he made an accidental turn into a border-crossing point at Tijuana where he was arrested because he had guns in his vehicle, during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Sgt. Tahmooressi, now a Marine reservist who served in Afghanistan, has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. Williams, who served in the Marines and the Navy, told lawmakers that he would tell his own son not to serve in the military now because veterans with PTSD and brain injuries feel abandoned, and "because our government doesn't respect you enough." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Jill Tahmooressi, mother of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi of Weston, Fla., who has been held for six months in a Mexican jail, reads his letters from confinement, during a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Tahmooressi, who suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome, claims he made an accidental wrong turn March 31 into a border-crossing point in Tijuana when he was arrested because he had guns in his vehicle. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
From left, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., Jill Tahmooressi of Weston, Fla., mother of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Montel B. Williams, TV personality and veterans advocate, gather on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, before the committee's hearing. The panel is hearing from Jill Tahmooressi about her son, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan suffering from PTSD, who has been held since March 31 in a Mexican jail after he made an accidental turn into a border-crossing point at Tijuana where he was arrested because he had guns in his vehicle. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Jill Tahmooressi stands outside the Mexican Consulate in Miami, Monday, May 5, 2014, protesting the arrest of her son in Mexico. Andrew Tahmooressi, a Marine veteran who was arrested and jailed in Mexico on weapons charges for allegedly bringing guns across the border, says he never intended to leave the country but missed an exit when heading to meet friends in a border town. He told the newspaper that Mexican authorities found three guns inside the truck he had recently driven across the country to make a new start in San Diego. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Paul and Jill Tahmooressi stand outside the Mexican Consulate in Miami, Monday, May 5, 2014, protesting the arrest of their son in Mexico. Andrew Tahmooressi, a Marine veteran who was arrested and jailed in Mexico on weapons charges for allegedly bringing guns across the border, says he never intended to leave the country but missed an exit when heading to meet friends in a border town. He told the newspaper that Mexican authorities found three guns inside the truck he had recently driven across the country to make a new start in San Diego. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 01: Jill Tahmooressi (L) talks with Montel Williams during a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill October 1, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Subcommittee is hearing testimony on Andrew Tahmooressi who is being held in a Mexican prison for bringing firearms over the border after making a wrong turn. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Jill Tahmooressi, mother of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who was arrested in Mexico more than four months ago after he crossed the border in possession of guns and ammunition, at her Weston, Fla., home on August 7, 2014. (Carline Jean/Sun Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
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Saturday brought another outpouring of support and commentary from Democratic and Republican political figures alike. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement that the agency was pleased with Tahmooressi's release and grateful for "the excellent cooperation we received from Mexican authorities."

Mexican authorities, however, had made clear that they would not be influenced by politics and that the matter was in the hands of its courts.

The case marks one of the first times Mexico made a ruling on PTSD - though the psychological wound is increasingly used in U.S. courts, especially in arguing for reduced prison sentences.

In his truck when he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, Tahmooressi was carrying a rifle, shotgun, pistol and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. His attorney, Fernando Benitez, argued that Tahmooressi carries loaded guns with him because his weapons, which were bought legally in the U.S., make him feel safer. He added that the veteran is often distracted, which could have contributed to him becoming lost.

Still, Mexican prosecutors insisted for months that Tahmooressi broke the law. Tahmooressi never admitted wrongdoing, and he still maintains his innocence, his attorney said.

After being jailed in Tijuana, he tried to kill himself by cutting his neck with a shard from a light bulb in his cell because the guards and inmates threatened to rape, torture and kill him, Tahmooressi's mother said.

He was transferred to another prison, where a pastor visited him regularly and the Mexican government says he was under medical observation.

But a psychiatrist hired by Mexican prosecutors to examine the Afghanistan veteran agreed with the defense that he should get PTSD treatment in the United States, noting in a Sept. 30 report that Tahmooressi, who now serves in the Marine reserve, feels like he is constantly in danger.

Tahmooressi left Florida for San Diego in January to get help after dropping out of college, unable to concentrate or sleep, his mother said.

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