When the $550 was rejected, Sehnert says he grew worried. "I just couldn't believe that that wasn't enough for them," he recalls. But he followed them in his pickup as they ordered, all the money still in his wallet. "We were driving along Sanchez Taboada, and they turned left toward downtown into a very dark area."
As he watched them turn, Sehnert says fear welled up in his heart, fear that he was being taken to some dark place to be killed so that he couldn't bear witness to the shark-sized bite they had put on him. "What I did next may be the stupidest thing I've ever done," Sehnert says. "Instead of following them, I took off straight ahead toward the border, which was only three quarters of a mile away. They whipped around, threw on their lights and sirens, and came after me. There was a big wait at the border, and they caught me there. This time they had called for backup, and about 30 cops showed up down there. Some of them are federal police. Everybody is looking me over, looking at the gun."
Handcuffed and sitting in the back of a squad car, Sehnert pleaded his case as vehemently as his limited Spanish allowed. "¡Mucha mordida!" he told the crowd of cops, pointing at the two police officers who had stopped him an hour and a half earlier. For another hour, the police on hand discussed the situation, and it was decided that, though possession of a firearm in Mexico is a federal offense, the original pair of cops would take him to a municipal substation downtown. "They have my truck towed away, and they take me downtown to a municipal police substation," Sehnert explains. "And I was there for about two hours. They had me alone in this holding tank, which was really a pit. It was about 12 by 12 feet, really filthy, with writing on the three concrete walls. The fourth side was all bars. There was a toilet, which was basically a hole in the concrete, no TP, no way to flush it. But I couldn't go anyway because my hands were cuffed behind me."
After taking a Breathalyzer test, the results of which he never found out, and having some photos taken of him, the same two municipal police officers brought Sehnert back to the Zona Rio. But this time it wasn't to ATMs they were bringing him. It was to the local office of the federal police. The black glass building bore a sign over the entrance reading Procuraduría General de la República, which translates to the Attorney General of the Republic. There, Sehnert was put into a holding cell. "It was relatively clean," he recalls, "most of the cells had toilets in them. But the lights are on 24 hours a day. There's no music, no TV, nothing to read, and time seems to stand still. That was not fun."
Sehnert was fingerprinted -- four times, for some unexplained reason -- and had a mug shot taken of him. On Monday morning around 10:00 he was brought out of the holding tank and allowed to make a phone call. He reached his roommate, who agreed to make more calls on Sehnert's behalf. "Finally, I knew somebody on the U.S. side was doing something on my behalf. You have no idea how much of a comfort that is."
That afternoon, he was brought out of his cell to speak with a man and woman who had come from the American consulate at the request of the police. "They told me that this would be a minimum 5-year, maximum 12-year sentence if I were convicted."
The couple from the consulate handed Sehnert a list of attorneys three names long, though they made it clear they were not allowed to recommend any of them. Sehnert, an attorney himself, though not a practicing one, recognized the first name on the list. "It was Baker & McKenzie, which is a very large, very prestigious law firm with offices around the world. I knew they had an office in Tijuana. I'm thinking, I want the best possible representation, so I said, 'Let's use these guys.' So they call and no one answers. I think that they either didn't really call or they called a fake number. It just doesn't make sense that there would not even be a receptionist to answer the phone at Baker & McKenzie even if the attorneys weren't in. It's ludicrous. But I'm glad. I think that the couple from the consulate were very restrained in what they could say. They couldn't say, 'Use this guy,' but they wanted me to get the next guy on the list, Luis Estrada Sanchez. So they call him and he's there and he'll come and talk to me. I say, 'Okay, great.' They gave me the paper with the names of the attorneys, and I was reading it. Looking it over, I noticed that along with the names of the firms, they listed their specialties. And Baker & McKenzie doesn't do criminal law. The only guy on the list of three who does criminal law is Luis Estrada Sanchez. So I'm quite sure that they intentionally didn't connect me with Baker & McKenzie. Thank God."
Sehnert thanks God because it was clear to him the moment Estrada arrived that he had some sort of in with the people at the PGR office, especially in comparison to another attorney who showed up on Sehnert's behalf before Estrada. "One of the people my roommate called is an attorney friend of mine named Tim," Sehnert explains. "Tim thought the best way to help me was to get me some good representation. And he did his level best to find someone he thought would be good. But the guy he ended up sending my way..." Sehnert pauses to laugh, "He was like a parody. He had a 1960s lime-green polyester suit. He was standing at the door to the holding area, and he wanted to talk to me personally. The district attorney in charge of my case said, 'No, it's not allowed.' But this lawyer started harassing the D.A. about this for about two minutes, saying, 'Oh, come on. Can't we talk for just a minute?' Of course, I'm freaking out. I'm thinking, 'What the hell are you doing, man? You're turning the D.A. against me. I'm screwed. He's going to charge me no matter what, now.' "