By Matthew Hendley Tue., Nov. 12 2013 at 3:01 PM
Two Border Patrol agents received prison sentences for violating the civil rights of men they found trying to smuggle marijuana in southern Arizona five years ago.
Agents Dario Castillo, 25, of Yuma, and Ramon Zuniga, age 31, of San Luis, were each sentenced to two years in prison, plus three years of supervision after they’re released.
According to federal prosecutors, Zuniga and Castillo were tracking border-crossers five years ago today.
That night, Zuniga and Castillo and two other agents spotted a group of men carrying backpacks full of marijuana, and although most of them ran, the agents were able to catch four of them.
Zuniga, who had found a smaller bag of weed in one man’s pocket, started shoving pot in the men’s mouths, yelling at them to “cometela,” or “eat it.”
Zuniga and Castillo then ordered the men to take off their shoes, socks, jackets, and extra shirts. Castillo proceeded to light their shoes and clothing on fire, and the agents turned the backpackers loose, into the cold night.
The four men spent the night out in the desert but luckily were discovered by a tribal police officer the next day.
Earlier this year, a federal jury found Castillo guilty of four felony counts of deprivation of rights, and found Zuniga guilty of four misdemeanor violations.
Here’s a statement from U.S. Attorney John Leonardo:
“The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to hold accountable all federal law enforcement officers in Arizona who abuse their authority in violation of their oath of office. Violations of the law by those sworn to enforce it undermine public confidence in the entire criminal justice system and will not be tolerated. The sentences imposed today reinforce the fundamental principle that no one, including a law enforcement officer, is above the law.”
Both agents have to surrender to start their prison sentences on or before on or before January 14, 2014.
Just last week, another Border Patrol agent was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, former Agent Ivhan Daniel Herrera-Chiang was working with a Border Patrol intelligence unit when he helped a drug-trafficking organization get information “including sensor maps, combinations to gates located near the U.S/Mexican border, computer records concerning prior drug seizures, and the identity of confidential informants.”
His partner-in-crime Michael Lopez-Garcia, a former Arizona Department of Corrections employee who personally smuggled meth across the border, received nine years in prison, according to federal prosecutors.