Skip to main content

U.S. cruiser’s nightmare is over

An American woman arrested in Mexico for possessing prescription drugs is no longer behind bars

An American woman arrested in Mexico for possessing prescription drugs is no longer behind bars

The American cruiser jailed for more than a year in Mexico for possession of pharmaceutical drugs without a prescription is a free woman.

Dawn Marie Wilson, who is 49, spent 17 months in a Mexican prison before being transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, Calif. She was released Dec. 10 after serving an additional three months (see July and November 2004 Soundings). The case highlights the perils of cruisers buying and carrying prescription drugs outside the United States.

Wilson, who had lived with her fiancé, Terry Kennedy, aboard a 45-foot trimaran in Puerto Escondido, was stopped by Mexican police while walking in Ensenada in April 2003. They searched her bags and found several vials of prescription medication but no Mexican doctor’s prescription, as required by law. She says she was arrested — her personal belongings confiscated (and $4,000 later withdrawn from her bank account) — and put in the back of a jeep.

Wilson claims she was carrying a three-month supply of her anti-seizure medication Dilantin, as well as Vistaril, an antihistamine used to treat anxiety. She says she also was carrying two types of diabetes medication, which she had picked up for a friend. Some of the medicines reportedly were purchased in Mexico. Wilson says she is accustomed to carrying large amounts of medication so she can be well-stocked while cruising.

Wilson, who contends she was provided a shoddy defense, was sentenced to five years in prison and sent to Ojos Negros federal penitentiary in Ensenada.

The U.S. embassy in Tijuana says there was little it could do to secure Wilson’s release, since she had violated Mexican law. Also, the embassy says there is a discrepancy in Wilson’s account. Liza Davis, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Consulate office in Tijuana, said in August that Mexican police found large quantities of five types of drugs — 445 pills in all. The list of drugs, which the police provided the consulate, included two types of appetite suppressants, a prescription painkiller, a sedative and an anti-anxiety drug, according to Davis. The list didn’t include Dilantin. In an interview with a local newspaper shortly after her release, Wilson stood by her story.

Wilson’s fiancé worked tirelessly to secure her freedom. Kennedy contacted politicians, launched a fund-raising campaign and talked to the media about Wilson’s plight. He says they spent more than $20,000 on legal fees.

Kennedy asserts that Wilson wasn’t receiving adequate care at Ojos Negros and wasn’t given medicine for her conditions. He was frustrated by what he says was lack of concern by U.S. officials. Congressman Bob Filner, a California democrat, was the only official who helped, according to Kennedy, and he reportedly played a role in securing her release.