AZ woman freed from Mexican jail, reunited with family - FOX Carolina 21

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AZ woman freed from Mexican jail, reunited with family

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Yanira and Gary Maldonado embrace after she was released from a Mexican jail Thursday night. (Source: CBS 5 News) Yanira and Gary Maldonado embrace after she was released from a Mexican jail Thursday night. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Maldonado's family are at Mexican courthouse Wednesday. (Source: CBS 5 News) Maldonado's family are at Mexican courthouse Wednesday. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Yanira Maldonado's husband speaks outside of courthouse Wednesday. (Source: CBS 5 News) Yanira Maldonado's husband speaks outside of courthouse Wednesday. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Daughter Anna Soto and brother-in-law Brandon Klippel are hoping Yanira Maldonado will be soon freed from a Mexican prison. (Source: CBS 5 News) Daughter Anna Soto and brother-in-law Brandon Klippel are hoping Yanira Maldonado will be soon freed from a Mexican prison. (Source: CBS 5 News)
AZ Gov. Jan Brewer and Sonora Governor Guillermo Padrés Elías commented Friday on Yanira Maldonado's release. (Source: CBS 5 News, Christina Batson) AZ Gov. Jan Brewer and Sonora Governor Guillermo Padrés Elías commented Friday on Yanira Maldonado's release. (Source: CBS 5 News, Christina Batson)
GOODYEAR, AZ (CBS5) -

Yanira Maldonado was released from a Mexico jail late Thursday night, finally free after a trying nine days behind bars on drug smuggling charges.

The 42-year-old mother and her husband, Gary Maldonado, tightly embraced after she walked through the doors of the jail. It was the first time since her incarceration they were able to see each other without a mesh fence between them.

Her 41-year-old husband, brother-in-law and other family members were there to continue the emotional reunion as she was released about 11 p.m. from the jail in Nogales, Mexico, about 20 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border.

"First (thanks) to God, because I'm free now," Yanira Maldonado told a large contingent of media, family and friends outside the jail. "He sends good people my way.

"I'm very grateful that I'm free. For my family, my children and special thanks to my lawyer, the consul from Nogales."

Her release came after her attorney, Jose Benitez, presented a surveillance video tape that showed the Maldonados boarding a charter bus for a return trip from Mexico, where they attended a family funeral, to the United States on May 22.

The tape clearly showed Yanira Maldonado carrying only some water bottles and her husband carrying two blankets. The 12 pounds of marijuana she was accused of smuggling or a bag big enough to carry that amount were nowhere to be seen.

Brandon Klippel, Yanira Maldonado's brother-in-law, told CBS 5 News four passengers who were on the bus were shuttled from different parts of Mexico late Monday night to Nogales to testify on behalf of his sister-in-law.

"These are people on the bus who had never met them before," Klippel said. "Each one of them has testified that they saw them and that they were the last ones to board the bus and they boarded without any luggage or bags at all."

Yanira Maldonado also thanked the jail's director, whom she said made her stay comfortable "for the last few days."

Asked in Spanish if she would return to Mexico, she said she would, but not for quite some time.

The Mexican government is expected to appeal the case. But Benitez said she doesn't have to return to Mexico for any further legal proceedings, that he would handle the case and she was free to return home.

U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, R-AZ, issued the following statement after he received confirmation of Yanira Maldonado's release:

"I am absolutely thrilled to confirm that Yanira Maldonado has been released and is currently on her way back home to America with her family. I received encouraging reports from her husband Gary earlier today that her release looked promising and was constantly assured in my conversations with U.S. and Mexican officials that this situation would be resolved fairly and quickly. I am heartened that this was the case and Mrs. Maldonado is now coming home where she belongs."

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-AZ, issued this statement:

"Though I'm sure this last week has been a nightmare for her, I'm thankful that Mrs. Maldonado's clear innocence was proved and that she is now home safe with her family."

The Maldonados conducted a news conference at 2:30 a.m. before getting some much needed rest before making the drive home to Goodyear for a private reunion with the rest of her family.

Klippel told CBS 5 News late Thursday night the family went to the jail to get her.

Yanira Maldonado was accused of smuggling the drugs into the U.S. under the seat of the bus she was riding in from Mexico.

But military officers from the checkpoint where she was apprehended didn't show up Wednesday to testify. 

The assistant judge had to make a decision by 6 p.m. Friday. If Maldonado was not released, she could have been transferred to a federal prison in southern Mexico for several months until her trial date.

Police at a military checkpoint near Hermosillo claimed they found two bricks of marijuana, wrapped in cellophane and weighing a total of 12 1/2 pounds. Mexican military officials claim one of the bricks was strapped underneath Maldonado's seat with a bungee cord. Another was allegedly found strapped under the seat next to her.

Klippel said he received constant updates from an interpreter inside the courthouse throughout the proceedings.

Stay with cbs5az.com for updates on this developing story.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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