Mexican Photos, Porn, Prison, and Plots: A Lesson of what Not to Do while Visiting Mexico

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On January 8, 2009, Mr. Edward Chrisman, 88, of Arlington Washington and his grandson, Gary Chrisman Jr, 40 of Yuma, Arizona were arrested and charged in Los Algodones, Baja California, Mexico for attempted child pornograpghy. The charges were later reduced to corruption of a minor.

Algodones is just across the border from Yuma, Ariz., and it’s known for cut-rate dental and medical services. American retirees, spending the winter in the desert sun, flock across the border daily. -HeraldNet

Let me begin by stating there is alot of controversy and even more “he said, she said” involved in this case. Edward Chrisman, a longtime resident of Arlington, was wintering in Yuma when he decided to take a trip across the border with his grandson, Gary Chrisman Junior. Gary Chrisman, a Yuma security guard, had been travelling across the border for the previous few days for dental work.

Gary Chrisman Jr. stopped at an Algodones convenience store, Novedades Jasmine, for a soda and while there, asked the owner’s 13 year old daughter and a 17 year old female store employee who were tending the store, if he could take their picture. He’d been taking photos of Mexican culture all day with a new camera he recieved for Christmas. The girls granted permission and he voluntarily paid them $200 pesos. He snapped headshots of the two fully-clothed girls and left the store. Edward Chrisman never even went into the store.

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The legal issue is what Gary Chrisman Jr. said to the two girls in the convenience store upon returning to Algodones a few days later.

The girls claim the photo was taken on January 5th, 2009. On January 8, 2009 Chrisman Jr. returned to Jasmine’s, again offering money in exchange for photos of the girls, nude photos. The girls, refused, which apparently did not stop Chrisman Jr. from writing his name and telephone number on a small paper and giving it to the girls, in case they changed their mind. Before leaving, as if in afterthought, he warned the girls by flashing a knife not to disclose his financial offer, and left the store.

The mother/owner arrived to the store, just as Chrisman was driving away on January 8, to find the girls visibly shaken. She reportedly called the police and presented the paper with Chrisman Jr’s name and Yuma, Arizona telephone number as evidence. By the time the Chrisman’s were leaving the dentist office, the police were waiting. Both girls stated Mr. Edward Chrisman had never entered the store, nor had they seen him elsewhere.

The Chrismans are about to enter their fourth week behind bars while family members carry on a publicity campaign declaring they are innocent targets of an attempted shakedown. Shannon Perkins, sister of Gary Chrisman Jr., said Mexican officials twice suggested that charges would be dropped if family members came up with thousands of dollars in bribe money.- Arizona Republic News

Who do we believe? First, I would like to say, I personally beleive Mr. Edward Chrisman should be released. He is almost 90 years old, widowed after 63 years of marriage, church loving,a war vetern, and as evidence and testemonies prove was simply caught up, as an innocent bystander, in his grandson’s apprehension. Having caught pneumonia, he is ill, frail, disorientated and alone in a cold, hard, Mexican cell.

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Now, as for Chrisman Jr, I cannot fault the Mexican police for investigating. Although no pornography was found on his camera, I find it odd that a man living seven miles from the Mexican border, in a town which is made up of more than a 54% latino population, would feel the need to seek young girls across the border, pay them, and leave his name and telephone number all in the name of cultural photography.

While I fully admit, Mexican police, especially border town police have been known to look for payoffs from tourists, you need to know about border towns to understand my confusion.

Let me give you the example of the Laredo-New Laredo, U.S.-Mexican border towns. On the New Laredo, Mexican side you will find both Mexicans and Americans, people speak Spanish, but english is readily available, and we pay for goods and services in pesos. It is generally rather dirty, but always busy with tourist and nationals crossing both sides of the bridge looking for bargains.

On the Laredo, Texas, United States side, you will find both Americans and Mexicans as well, but the Mexican’s, apart from the Mexicans crossing to shop, are called “Latino-Americans” or “Americans of Hispanic origin“. You will still hear mostly Spanish, although English is also spoken, the cars are much nicer, the city much cleaner clean, the gas is much cheaper, the police don’t ask for bribes, and you will pay for all purchases in in U.S. dollars.

Do you see where I’m heading? There is no time warp. Crossing the U.S. border into Mexico does not transform you into te ancient, mystical indeginous land of our ancestors worthy of cultural photos, at least not for someone who lives on the border; you see the same type of people on either side.

As for taking photos of young children, that in itself I have a problem with. Imagine if I, here on Instablogs, in the name of cultural enthusiasm struck up a conversation with someone’s young daughter via live chat. Imagine if I offered her money for photos, imagine your reaction if you found my personal email and telephone on her computer. I won’t even ask your reaction, if after all that, although it was via internet, thousands of miles away, I offered her more moeny for nudity.

If some stranger, man or woman, came to my town and starting taking pictures of my daughter, paying or not, there would be hell to pay; I can guarentee not only that I would not be understanding of the situation, but that I, Oscar, without a doubt, would be the one behind bars in a Mexican jail. There are somethings, one just doesn’t do; exploiting children is one of them.

While I do not feel Chrisman Jr should be prosecuted without a thorough investigation, the case is definitly not clear. Mexican law has the obligation to not only follow up these claims, but also the right to hold the accused for up to fourty days while doing so. They have not been offered bail for two reasons: the case involves minors and the charge carries a more than two year sentence if the accused is found guilty.

We have a very different judicial system here. It is both slow and aged. There is no trial by jury, but one judge assigned to hundreds of cases. There is also no such thing as innocent until proven guilty here; quite the contrary, one is guilty until proven innocent.

I pray there is a prompt intervention for Mr. Edward Chrisman and I hope Gary Jr is found innocent. I also hope that tourist take into thought what an extremly delicate case this is and why it must be investigated.

There are many places where tourist can take cultural photos throughout our nation, but please THINK before snapping shots of children. Think of what you would do in the same situation.

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