Just a coincidence that on the day it’s announced that a federal court has ordered the Justice Department to initiate the process of turning over withheld Fast and Furious documents, the Justice Department announces another defendant in Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder has been extradited to face charges.
According to a Justice Department news release, Ivan Soto-Barraza was extradited to the U.S. from Mexico today to face first degree murder charges in Terry’s December 14, 2010 shooting near Nogales, Arizona just north of the Mexico border.
Of six defendants charged so far, two have pleaded guilty and two are awaiting trial, says the news release.
Soto-Barraza will be arraigned in federal court in Tucson, Arizona tomorrow. Besides Terry’s murder, the defendants are charged with assaulting Border Patrol Agents William Castano, Gabriel Fragoza and Timothy Keller, who were on site with Terry when the gunfight broke out. The Border Patrol agents were targeting so-called RIP crews, illegal immigrants who prey on other illegal immigrants crossing into the U.S.
Lionel Portillo-Meza was captured in Mexico in September of 2012 and extradited to the U.S. on June 17 of this year. Soto-Barraza was captured in Mexico in September 2012. Two fugitives are still on the loose: Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga and Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes. A fifth defendant, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, pleaded guilty last February and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. A sixth defendant, who was in custody at the time of Terry’s murder, plead guilty to other crimes related to illegal border activity.
Fast and Furious was the name of a controversial case in which federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms allowed thousands of assault rifles and other weapons to be trafficked to violent drug cartels in Mexico. The Department of Justice initially denied any so-called “gunwalking” had occurred. However, the coverup unraveled after ATF Special Agent John Dodson spoke out against the strategy in an interview with me in February of 2011.
Documents subsequently revealed that officials as high up as Attorney General Eric Holder had been sent briefings on the case, and Justice Department officials communicated with White House officials about it. However, Holder and the White House say they were unaware that the cross-border gun operation was employing the controversial gunwalking strategy.
An Inspector General report in 2012 faulted numerous officials under the Justice Department for mismanagement and other transgressions in the case.
In June of 2012, Congress held Holder in contempt for refusing to turn over subpoenaed documents. President Obama declared executive privilege to withhold documents in the case from Congress. Freedom of Information requests filed by outside groups and journalists, including me, have not been answered.