2 Border Patrol agents charged with civil rights violations
Pair accused of abusing 4 Mexican nationals in 2008
Two Border Patrol agents accused of forcing four Mexican nationals to eat marijuana, strip off clothing and their shoes then flee into the desert on a cold night in 2008 were indicted by a federal grand jury in Tucson on Thursday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Dario Castillo, 23, and Ramon Zuniga, 29, both of Maricopa County, have been charged with civil rights violations and Castillo faces an additional charge of witness tampering, according to the five-count indictment.
The indictment alleges that on the night of Nov. 12, 2008, Castillo and Zuniga forced the Mexicans, who were in the country illegally and suspected of marijuana smuggling, to eat marijuana. The agents also are accused of forcing them to remove their outerwear, socks and shoes.
Rather than arresting the four, Castillo and Zuniga are accused of then setting fire to the belongings and telling the group to flee into the desert where they had no access to shelter or resources in approximately 40-degree weather.
The agents’ actions deprived the four of their rights to be free of unreasonable search and seizure, the indictment said.
The agents were charged with conspiracy to deprive persons of civil rights and civil rights deprivation, which each carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, a $250,000 fine, or both. Castillo also has been charged with witness tampering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
The investigation was conducted by Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General in Tucson.