NOGALES, Mexico — An Arizona woman has been released from a jail in Mexico
where she was being held on a drug-smuggling charge.
Yanira Maldonado, 42, walked out of
the jail in Nogales late Thursday night, after court officials reviewed security
footage that showed her and her husband boarding a bus in Mexico with only
blankets, bottles of water and her purse in hand.
The family was expected to return to Goodyear later in the day.
“I’m free,” she said, smiling. The mother of seven thanked her husband Gary, her lawyer, State Department officials and even prison staffers.
Maldonado was arrested by the
Mexican military last week after they found nearly 12 pounds of bagged pot under her
seat on a commercial bus.
In an interview, Maldonado said, “Someone smuggled those in there and I probably sat in the wrong seat.”
The Maldonados were traveling home to the Phoenix
suburb after attending her aunt’s funeral in the city of Los Mochis
when they were arrested.
The arrest drew national attention and U.S. government officials also followed the case closely.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) tweeted about Maldonado’s release:
Great News. Just had it confirmed by Consul General.Yanira Maldonado has been released. #FreeYanira
— Jeff Flake (@FlakeforSenate) May 31, 2013
Maldonado’s lawyer, Jose Francisco Benitez Paz, had requested a passenger manifest and video of the boarding process. He was able to question witnesses.
Gary Maldonado said he was initially arrested, then he was released and Yanira was arrested. Gary Maldonado told reporters that authorities had demanded $5,000.
The couple said it would be awhile before they returned to Mexico.
Associated Press contributed to this article.