Mom facing Mexican drug charges: 'I want to be free'Play Video
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From the Mexican jail where she is being held on suspicion of drug smuggling, an Arizona mother of seven pleaded her innocence.
“I feel, like, trapped,’’ Yanira Maldonado told Miguel Almaguer in an interview that aired on TODAY Thursday. “I wanted to find a way out, and I’m telling them I’m innocent, I’m innocent. I keep saying what happened, and I’m still here, so I just have faith in the Lord.”
“I just want to be back home right now with my family, my kids and my husband,’’ Maldonado said.
State Department officials visited Maldonado in jail yesterday and have had regular phone contact with her since, according to State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.
"I just want to reiterate that we've been in close contact with her family. She's been in close contact with her family, and she's had access in person, but also on the phone to consular representatives throughout this process," Psaki told NBC News.
A judge will review her case on Friday.
Maldonado was detained on May 22 after soldiers claimed they found 12 pounds of marijuana taped under her seat on a bus. She and her husband were returning to the U.S. from a funeral. Maldonado has not been charged with a crime.
“My spirit is good,’’ she said. “It’s better right now, but I get concerned, too, because I just want to go home. I want to be free.”
The Mexican military officials involved in her case did not appear at a court hearing Wednesday, and no decision was made on her release. Maldonado’s attorney is now hoping surveillance video from the bus station will prove that she did not bring any drugs on board. If the judge decides to proceed with a trial, Maldonado could be transferred to another prison and have to wait months until the trial begins.
Meanwhile, defense and prosecution lawyers, along with Maldonado's husband, Gary, and journalists watched footage in a Mexico court room on Thursday that showed the Maldonados just before they boarded the bus. In the video, which was viewed by an NBC producer, Yanira is seen carrying a black purse and what appears to be folded blankets, and gives some to Gary. There was apparently no indication of a 12-pound package.
A devout Mormon from Goodyear, Ariz., Maldonado was born in Mexico but is a naturalized American citizen. She believes she may have been set up at the military checkpoint, where soldiers initially accused her husband of smuggling the marijuana before detaining her instead.
“Knowing this family, I find it incredulous that they would be involved in any kind of drug smuggling,’’ Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona, who has been in close contact with the family, told TODAY.
“I am worried about my kids,’’ Maldonado said. “They need me there.”
Additional reporting by NBC News' Richard Adams