Mexican smuggler gets life in prison for killing agent

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 01, 2011 5:13 PM
Mexican smuggler gets life in prison for killing agent

By Marty Graham

SAN DIEGO, Calif (Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday sentenced a Mexican drug trafficker to life in jail for killing a U.S. Border Patrol agent by deliberately swerving a truck at him in a dash back to Mexico to escape arrest.

U.S. District Judge Michael M. Anello sentenced Jesus Navarro Montes, 25, to life for the killing of senior Border Patrol agent Luis Aguilar on January 19, 2008.

A jury convicted Navarro in April of second degree murder for striking Aguilar, 32, with a Hummer H2 truck in Southern California, as Navarro Montes attempted to flee to Mexico.

On the morning he died, Aguilar and another agent had set out a spike strip across an access road near the Imperial San Dunes recreation area, to stop the vehicle, which they believed was smuggling narcotics.

But the Hummer swerved to avoid it, striking Aguilar before speeding south into Mexico. Aguilar died of his injuries at the scene.

Navarro was arrested in Mexico and extradited last year to the United States to stand trial.

"In defense of this country's borders, Border Patrol Agent Luis Aguilar offered the ultimate personal sacrifice," Laura E. Duffy, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, said in a statement.

"His undeserved and tragic fate only strengthened the government's resolve to bring justice to the Aguilar family. It is my hope that today's proceedings have helped the family achieve some measure of closure and peace," she added.

Aguilar was married with two small children. Closure seemed elusive Friday for the late agent's family.

"I hate you for what you did," Aguilar's daughter Arriana said in a letter to Navarro, which she read out in court. "You are such a coward," she added.

Navarro had pleaded guilty to a separate charge dating from a previous drug smuggling attempt in September 2007, in which he was arrested by Border Patrol agents as he drove a pickup truck packed with 979 pounds of marijuana.

On Friday, Anello sentenced him to 40 years each for two counts of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, to be served concurrently.

(Reporting by Marty Graham; Writing by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Greg McCune)