Thursday, September 24, 2015



Updated Sep 23, 2015 - 7:07 pm
Former agent testifies at start of Fast and Furious trial
September 23, 2015 @ 1:43 am

FILE - In this Dec. 15, 2010, file photo, an American flag on a nearby resident's home waves in the breeze near a U.S. Border Patrol truck blocking the road leading to a search area near where agent Brian Terry, 40, was killed northwest of Nogales, Ariz. Two men charged with murder in the death of agent Terry that revealed the bungled gun-smuggling investigation known as Fast and Furious go on trial Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. The men were charged in the killing of agent Terry during the Fast and Furious operation in which federal agents allowed criminals to buy guns with the intention of tracking them. Instead, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lost track of 1,400 of the 2,000 guns involved in the sting operation, including two weapons found at the scene of Terry's killing. (Greg Bryan/Arizona Daily Star Via AP, File) MANDATORY CREDIT; GREEN VALLEY NEWS OUT;

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A former Border Patrol agent broke down in tears as he described desperately trying to save the life of a colleague who was shot during a firefight that exposed the bungled federal gun operation known as Fast and Furious.

William Castano was among the first witnesses Wednesday in the trial of two suspects charged in the 2010 death of Brian Terry. It is the first criminal trial in Terry's killing, which brought to light the government's operation that allowed criminals to buy weapons with the intention of tracking them. Instead, they lost about 1,400 guns, including two found where Terry was killed.

Castano became emotional in federal court in Tucson as he walked the jury through the night of Dec. 14, 2010, when he, Terry and two other agents were on a mission to arrest gangs known as rip crews that target marijuana smugglers.

The agents yelled "policia" after spotting the weapon-toting crew, Castano said. They later fired rounds from beanbag guns at the smugglers, and a gunfight ensued. Terry was hit in the back. Castano cut open Terry's shirt to locate the wound, using a flashlight to guide him.

"I put my hand all over his body to see if I could feel blood," he said.

Terry lost consciousness and other agents arrived to help carry him down a hill, which was no easy task given his muscular, 215-pound frame, Castano said. Castano lost his composure while testifying.

Opening statements began earlier in the day in the trial of Jesus Leonel Sanchez-Meza, also known as Lionel Portillo-Meza, and Ivan Soto-Barraza. Two others have already pleaded guilty in the case, and another two remain fugitives.

Defense attorney Ramiro Flores was quick to point out that the agents deployed their beanbag shotguns first and three of the men ran away.

"Someone triggered that firefight, and it wasn't these individuals here," Flores said of the defendants.

Flores said he would touch on the Border Patrol's use-of-force policy during the trial. The agency has come under heavy criticism over allegations that agents too often use deadly force against immigrants, often in response to those who throw rocks.

Prosecutor Todd Wallace Robinson said DNA pulled from water bottles and sweaters left behind by the alleged rip crew matched Sanchez-Meza and Soto-Barraza, and that the men confessed after being found in Mexico several years later that they were part of the crew.

"All five members of the rip crew were carrying weapons, and they were carrying them for one purpose and one purpose alone, and it was to rob smugglers," Robinson said.

Sanchez-Meza and Soto-Barraza face charges of first- and second-degree murder, assault on a federal officer, conspiracy to commit robbery, attempted interference with commerce by robbery and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence.

Terry's death brought to light the Fast and Furious operation, which quickly became a hot political issue in Washington. Republicans sought to hold the Obama administration accountable over the operation, conducting a series of inquiries into the how the Justice Department allowed guns to end up in the hands of criminals.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt after he refused to divulge documents for a congressional investigation into the matter. Since then, the Justice Department has focused on arresting and trying all suspects involved.

Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, one of the men present but likely not the shooter, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced in February 2014 to 30 years in prison.

Rosario Rafael Burboa-Alvarez, accused of assembling the armed crew, struck a plea deal last month that will likely result in a 30-year prison sentence, with credit for time served. He will be sentenced in October.

Two other suspects are still on the loose.


Note:  KVOA a Tucson TV station.

Posted: Sep 23, 2015 6:04 PM MST
Updated: Sep 23, 2015 6:24 PM MST
Brian Terry murder trial gets underway
Written By Sean Mooney

The jury heard the opening statements Wednesday for the trial of the men accused of murdering Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

Nearly five years after the shooting, federal prosecutors said in their opening statement that the two men on trial, Ivan Soto Barraza and Lionel Portillo-Meza, also known as Jesus Leonel Sanchez-Meza, killed Terry near Rio Rico in 2010.  

Prosecutors contend that the defendants were members of a "rip-off" crew who were planning to rob marijuana smugglers, according to investigators.

The defense claims the two were just defending themselves after Border Patrol agents opened fire at them.

Controversy continued to follow the case after the judge ruled that all references to the failed weapons operation by the Department of Justice, "Fast and Furious", were banned from the trial.

Robert Heyer, Chairman of the Brian Terry Foundation and a family member, said despite the omission of all references to "Fast and Furious", they believe the remaining evidence will be enough to convict the accused men.

"Our focus is the successful conviction of these two defendants," said Heyer. "If that means, with respect to this particular prosecution of these two defendants, that Operation 'Fast and Furious' remain separate, then the Terry family is fine with that."

Heyer said some graphic images were presented by the prosecution in their opening statement. He said that despite how difficult it was for the Terry family to view the materials, they are determined to see justice served in the trial.


Note:  the flip side.  

It would seem the Tucson Daily "Worker" aka "red star" has little interest in the Terry murder trial and the F&F links.  (for our younger readers that is a reference to publications of the late, departed USSR aka soviet union. Look up Ivestia & Pravda )

US border agent who killed Sonora teen is indicted
Federal grand jury indicts border agent in fatal shooting
12 hours ago  •  By Curt Prendergast

A federal grand jury indicted Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz on a second-degree murder charge Wednesday afternoon.

The charge stems from an Oct.  10, 2012, incident in which Swartz fired through the border fence into Nogales, Sonora, and fatally wounded 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.

Sean Chapman, who is representing Swartz in a civil lawsuit filed by the Elena Rodriguez family, said the U.S. Attorney's Office informed him of the charge Wednesday afternoon.

Luis Parra, who represents the Elena Rodriguez family, said he also was informed by the U.S. Attorney's Office of the charge.

Swartz will plead not guilty at the arraignment scheduled for Oct. 9, Chapman said.

"He will fight the charge," he said. "I expect this case will go to trial."

The U.S. Attorney's Office did not immediately return a request for information.

The shooting occurred around 11:30    p.m. when Nogales police officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents responded to a call of suspected smuggling at the border fence that separates the downtown area of the twin cities.

The Border Patrol said the agents saw two people abandon a load of drugs and run into Mexico. The agents were then barraged by rocks thrown from Mexico and fired across the border, the agency said.

An autopsy report from Mexican authorities indicated Elena Rodriguez was shot at least eight times, with all but one bullet striking him in the back.

Witnesses to the shooting said Elena Rodriguez was walking down the street that runs along the base of a 30-foot rock face. The border fence stands another 20 feet on top of the rock face.

More than two years after the shooting, U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins ordered Swartz's name be released in November 2014, saying public access outweighed concerns expressed by Chapman over Swartz's safety.

At least 10 people have died in Border Patrol-related shootings in Southern Arizona since 2010, and another five have been injured.

Nationally, there have been more than two dozen deaths. None of the agents involved has been convicted or publicly disciplined.

Locally, three agents have been criminally charged in more than 20 years, but in all three cases the agents were cleared.

In 1992, then-agent Michael Elmer was charged with the murder of Dario Miranda Valenzuela, who was shot in the back west of Nogales, Arizona.

The shooting was not reported until 15 hours later. Elmer was acquitted of second-degree murder in a state trial that year and in 1994 was found not guilty in a civil-rights trial.

In 2005, agent Denin Hermosillo was charged with negligent homicide in the shooting death of Julio Cesar Yenez Ramirez, who was suspected of smuggling marijuana. The case was dismissed in January 2006.

In 2007, agent Nicholas Corbett was tried for the death of Javier Dominguez Rivera in the desert between Bisbee and Douglas near the U.S.-Mexico line. After two hung juries, the Cochise County attorney dropped the charges. Corbett said Dominguez Rivera tried to smash his head with a rock, but prosecutors said the young man was kneeling to surrender when killed.

Since then, the county attorney's offices in Pima and Cochise have declined to prosecute agents in four other cases, saying they could not prove the killings were not justified. The Department of Justice concluded the same.


No comments:

Post a Comment