EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A Dallas trucker imprisoned for seven months in Mexico on accusations that he tried to smuggle assault rifle ammunition into the country broke down in tears Friday when he returned to the U.S., saying he had at times given up hope.
Jabin Bogan maintains he was on his way to Phoenix to deliver the ammunition in April when he took a wrong highway exit and accidentally crossed the border into Mexico. Despite his insistence it was an honest mistake, the 27-year-old was arrested and taken to a Mexican maximum security prison.
"Some days I gave up hope. Some days I felt like God was, to be honest in my heart, like God was laughing. Like he was just punishing me for no reason. I felt like just giving up," he said during a brief news conference in El Paso shortly after arriving back in the U.S.
Bogan tearfully thanked his supporters, and said that at times he felt like taking his own life or someone else's.
"I was the only black American person in the whole prison. God brought me through and I made it," he said.
Bogan was released from the Mexican prison last week but had been detained by immigration authorities until Friday. He was found guilty of possession of military ammunition and sentenced to three years, but the ruling was later commuted for time served and a fine.
He was arrested on April 17 in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso. Bogan said he was headed to Phoenix when he got lost, and he told Mexican authorities that a law enforcement officer at the border had told him to continue driving across the international bridge.
Bogan said he attempted to turn back when he realized he had crossed into Mexico, but the layout of the traffic lanes prevented him from returning without first crossing into the truck inspection area in Juarez, where his truck was searched.
He said Friday that when he acknowledged to the agents he had ammunition, "they said, 'in this side of the country it's illegal to have bullets.' And that's when everything went upside down they took me in and never let me out."
During his trial, Mexican customs agents contradicted prosecutors' claim that Bogan had 268,000 bullets hidden under the floorboards of his 18-wheeler's trailer when he was arrested. Agents testified in June that Bogan was trying to make a U-turn back into the U.S. when they found the ammunition bundled on top of wooden pallets inside the trailer.
Bogan was arrested less than 100 feet from a giant billboard that reads, "no more weapons." The sign, unveiled by Mexican President Felipe Calderon two months before Bogan was caught, was made out of seized high-caliber rifles and ammunition.
Calderon has blamed lax U.S. gun laws for the flow of weapons into Mexico.
An appeal filed in August by Bogan's lawyer in Mexico, Emilio de la Rosa, reduced the charge from smuggling to possession of military ammunition. That allowed Bogan to be released after serving a portion of his sentence and paying a fine. He also was sentenced to supervised release, which he can do by mail.
The ammunition belonged to United Nations Ammunition. De la Rosa said the bullets would not be returned to the company.
A spokesman with the Mexican Attorney General did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.
Bogan's attorney, Carlos Spector, maintains that Bogan made an honest mistake. But he said his lawyers decided not to fight the case, in part because of the potential political implications.
"He (De la Rosa) knew the options were get him out in six or seven months or sink him with a 30-year-sentence. Asking for a not-guilty sentence was impossible because the Mexican government had to get something out of this," Spector said.