Late on Thursday, two former Border Patrol agents were indicted for forcing suspected drug smugglers to eat marijuana.
Agents Dario Castillo, 23, and Ramon Zuniga, 29, both of Maricopa, are charged with conspiracy to deprive people of their civil rights, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Castillo and Zuniga were on duty Nov. 12, 2008, near the village of Pisinimo on the western side of the Tohono O’odham Reservation near the Border Patrol’s Papago Farms camp, shows the indictment.
The agents encountered four Mexican men who were part of larger group of drug smugglers. Instead of apprehending them, the agents forced them to eat marijuana and strip to their underwear. The agents set fire to their belongings and told the men to flee into the remote desert area on a night when temperatures were about 40 degrees, the indictment shows.
According to the indictment, Castillo and Zuniga found marijuana on the four people--all Mexicans who were in the country illegally. After forcing the men to eat the pot, Castillo and Zuniga then burned their belongings and forced them to run into the desert in 40-degree weather, with no shelter or resources within a reasonable distance. Castillo faces an additional charge of witness tampering after he tried to get a witness not to talk.
Castillo and Zuniga face a maximum of 10 years in prison on the civil rights charge, while Castillo faces a maximum of 20 years on the witness tampering charge. By my rough estimate using the Sentencing Guidelines Calculator, Zuniga could get three years and five months under the sentencing guidelines while Castillo could get four years and three months.
However, looking at a map, I hope that these two get a substantial upward departure from sentencing guidelines. That area is literally in the middle of nowhere. I know what those agents must have thought, "These scum deserve it for putting pot on our streets and in the hands of kids." However, no one deserves that. Not only that, but no thanks to these idiots, those smugglers may never be tried--and it's possible we may never learn more about any pipeline of drugs across the Mexican border.
The comment page on CNN's writeup is pretty horrifying--most of them are actually applauding the agents.