Border Agents Sentenced to 2 Years for Handcuffing Drug Smuggler

A U.S. Border Patrol agent has been sentenced to two years in prison for “improperly lifting the arms of a 15-year-old drug smuggling suspect” during an arrest where border agents found more than 150 pounds of marijuana being transported by illegal immigrants across the Rio Grande.

The Washington Times reports on the Justice Department’s case, which said the agent violated the drug-smuggling teenager’s constitutional right to be free from unreasonable force:

“Agent Jesus E. Diaz Jr. was named in a November 2009 federal grand jury indictment with deprivation of rights under color of law during an October 2008 arrest near the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas, in response to a report that illegal immigrants had crossed the river with bundles of drugs.

In a prosecution sought by the Mexican government and obtained after the suspected smuggler was given immunity to testify against the agent, Diaz was sentenced last week by U.S. District Judge Alia Moses Ludlumin San Antonio. The Mexican consulate in Eagle Pass had filed a formal written complaint just hours after the arrest, alleging that the teenager had been beaten.”

Photos showed no bruises or marks that indicated a beating on the suspect’s body, other than marks from the straps of the bag loaded with drugs that the suspect had been carrying.

Diaz is a seven year veteran of the Border Patrol, and had originally been cleared of charges by Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Professional Responsibility. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas brought charges against Diaz, however, which led to the two year sentence.

The Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council said the government’s case was “based on false testimony that is contradicted by the facts,” and that witnesses have made contradictory claims and later admitted to having perjured themselves.

The same U.S. Attorney’s office brought charges against two Border Agents in 2006 for shooting a drug-smuggling suspect in the buttocks as he tried to flee back into Mexico after leaving a van filled with 800 pounds of marijuana. The suspect was given immunity for testifying against the agents in that case, where agents were convicted and sentenced to 11 and 12 years of prison.