Former agent testifies at start of Fast and Furious trial

24 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Fast-and-Furious Trial: Suspects charged in border agent’s slaying to face trial.

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A former Border Patrol agent broke down in tears Wednesday 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. 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, 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. 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 patrolling an area where gangs known as rip crews were known to target marijuana smugglers.

While the case will provide the first trial for suspects in Terry’s death, the judge has excluded any information about the failed operation during the case. Jesus Leonel Sanchez-Meza, also known as Lionel Portillo-Meza, and Ivan Soto-Barraza will be the first to face trial. ”It’s gonna be an emotional time for us, but we’re just thankful that we have the opportunity to bring these two defendants to justice and we hope that the government is successful in getting convictions for these two individuals,” family spokesman Robert Heyer said. The operation became a major distraction for the Obama administration as Republicans in Congress conducted a series of inquiries into how the Justice Department allowed such an operation to happen.

Rosario Rafael Burboa-Alvarez, accused of assembling the armed crew that was supposed to steal marijuana from smugglers when they encountered Terry and other agents, struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors last month that will likely result in a 30-year prison sentence, with credit for time served. 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.

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.

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