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Horowitz: Prosecution or persecution? Arizona rancher charged with first-degree murder for death of illegal alien
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Horowitz: Prosecution or persecution? Arizona rancher charged with first-degree murder for death of illegal alien

Imagine living on the frontier near the Mexican border on a large ranch with cartel traffickers invading every day. You are alone with your cattle day and night with no neighbors in close proximity, and you sometimes have to keep your lights off at night so that the cartels don’t notice you. Now imagine being charged with first-degree murder after finding a dead body on your ranch with no evidence that you killed the guy at all, much less that you wrongly shot him. The story of George Alan Kelly, while still murky and bizarre – whether the prosecution is justified or not on any level – still exemplifies the malfeasance of our government in surrendering our frontier ranches to the cartels.

Kelly, a 73-year old retired federal worker, was arrested at his ranch near Nogales, Arizona, the night of Jan. 30 after the body of an illegal alien was found a few hundred yards from his house. Kelly himself is the one who called authorities after discovering the body, and from day one it was never clear whether he even shot him, much less shot him with premeditated intent.

Chief Deputy Gerardo Castillo of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office told the Nogales International the next day that the police did not clarify the circumstances or motive, the two appeared not to know each other, the police did no ballistics testing, and Kelly denied the crime and cooperated with investigators. Yet he was arrested, charged with premeditated murder, and held on $1 million bond, simply because their investigation "initially revealed that he had shot in the area.” He fired some shot at some time.

Those of us watching this case for the past two weeks have wondered if this was yet another example of a blue-county sheriff railroading a rancher who acted in self-defense. Last week, the lawyer for Kelly, in a motion requesting the judge to lower bail, revealed verifiable details that, when juxtaposed with the Santa Cruz law enforcement’s silence, raise serious questions as to how officials rushed to first-degree murder charges.

Kelly’s side of the story

Earlier in the day of Jan. 30, Kelly was eating lunch with his wife and alleges he heard a gunshot and saw his old horse running away at full speed. He then saw a group of men armed with AK-47s dressed in khakis and camo running through the woods. He immediately called the Border Patrol ranch liaison, told his wife to stay put, and went out to his porch with a rifle. He claims one of the backpackers pointed an AK at him, and he responded by firing warning shots well above their heads, which he believes could not possibly have hit anyone. The traffickers ran away to the desert, and he called the liaison back. It was recorded on Border Patrol’s radio that armed men were in the area at 2:40 p.m.

So right off the bat, this was not a case of a man caught in the act with a dead body on his lawn. Kelly called Border Patrol, the conversation is all verifiable and recorded, and he is on record that day as telling law enforcement there were hostiles on his ranch. When Border Patrol and sheriff’s deputies responded to the call in the afternoon, both Kelly and his wife reported to them the story of the armed backpackers. The deputies checked the area, found no live or dead bodies, and left. Around sunset, when Kelly went to attend to his horses, his dogs began barking and eventually revealed a dead body lying facedown in the grass a few hundred feet from the house. Kelly immediately called the liaison and cooperated with law enforcement the entire time. The deceased, who had tactical boots and a radio on his body, was later identified as Gabriel Cuen-Butimea, a Mexican national previously convicted for illegal entry and deported several times.

This is Kelly’s side of the story. He has no clue how this man got there or whether he was from the group he shot at or not. Either way, whether someone else killed him or indeed he was killed by the warning shots, the prosecutor is not providing evidence that would be sufficient to charge him with murder one. The only justification would be if he somehow made up the rest of the story and really tried to just find an illegal alien and shoot him in cold blood and dragged his body onto his ranch. But if that were the case, then why would he have called Border Patrol? Police don’t even know whether Kelly’s gun killed him or under what circumstance.

Kelly has been held for three weeks without the prosecution presenting probable cause of premeditated murder. Kelly has no prior record, worked for the National Park Service and for Fish and Wildlife, has lived in the community for 26 years, and is elderly. Something doesn’t add up.

Again, to charge someone with first-degree murder in the context of what ranchers are up against with the invasion would only be justified if he just executed someone, which clearly the facts known so far show no probable cause to suggest. The sheriff’s department hasn’t even determined the bullet was from Kelly’s rifle, much less that it was premeditated. At worst, he is guilty of firing warning shots instead of simply firing on the traffickers, as one is usually justified in doing when in fear of his life, but large ranches at the chaotic border are not similar to being confronted in a city, where you typically wouldn’t fire a warning shot. For this man to be held without any probable cause evidence until the Feb. 22 hearing – more than three weeks later – is beyond bizarre.

Can we trust a legal system that prioritizes invaders over citizens?

In general, there is a problem with Soros prosecutors and sheriffs who seem to go soft on career violent criminals but suddenly get tough on cases of self-defense. But at the border, it’s even worse, because the corruption in blue counties at the border runs deep and is often related to the cartels. For years, the FBI has been indicting border county sheriffs and officials on corruption, often with ties to the Mexican cartels. Last year, the Santa Cruz county assessor pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges.

Moreover, some of the blue-county sheriffs are extremely sympathetic to the cartel smugglers and treat the ranchers with antipathy. Just two months ago, Santa Cruz County Sheriff David Hathaway, the man overseeing the lockup of Kelly, asserted that there is no invasion at the border and that he would prosecute any contractor hired by former Gov. Doug Ducey who constructs a shipping container barrier at the border. So he already has a proclivity to treat the invaders as welcome and those trying to stop the invasion as the real criminals. He visited with protesters of the barriers and lent his personal support to their cause, even though their protest was out of his jurisdiction in neighboring Cochise County.

Santa Cruz County is the bluest county in America. We already know that when it comes to alleged crimes that are colored by the political divide, those on the wrong side of the political (or Mexican) cartel cannot get a fair shake in our justice system. This is doubly true in blue border counties. A recent Mexican military document identified Mexican federal Highway 15 going north to Nogales as a major smuggling route. It’s awfully uncanny how local “law enforcement” seem to be more concerned with those seeking to counter this dangerous invasion and smuggling than those doing the smuggling.

The question going forward is whether we can trust the facts that emerge this week at the arraignment of George Alan Kelly, given the unprecedented lack of transparency we’ve seen so far.

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Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz

Blaze Podcast Host

Daniel Horowitz is the host of “Conservative Review with Daniel Horowitz” and a senior editor for Blaze News.
@RMConservative →