Suspended Border Patrol Agents Sentenced To Prison
TUCSON, Ariz. - On Nov. 12, 2013, United States District Court Judge Jennifer G. Zipps sentenced suspended Border Patrol Agents Dario Castillo, age 25, of Yuma, Ariz., and Ramon Zuniga, age 31, of San Luis, Ariz., to 24 months in prison, as a result of their convictions for civil rights offenses. Both were ordered to self-surrender for service of their sentence on or before Jan. 14, 2014.
On April 19, 2013, a federal jury in Tucson found Castillo guilty of four felony counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, and Zuniga guilty of four misdemeanor violations. The case was tried before Judge Zipps from April 8 through April 19, 2013.
“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,” said United States Attorney John S. Leonardo. “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.”
Evidence at trial showed that on Nov. 12, 2008, Zuniga and Castillo participated in a Border Patrol operation to track and contact border-crossers in Southern Arizona. At approximately 10:30 p.m., agents located a group of persons carrying backpacks containing marijuana. Most of these individuals fled, but four of the group were apprehended by the defendants and two other agents. During a search of the four, Zuniga discovered a small baggie of personal-use marijuana on one of them. He then shoved the marijuana into several of the victims’ mouths and yelled “cometela” (eat it). The defendants ordered the victims to take off their shoes, socks, jackets, and extra shirts, which the victims had layered to protect against the cold, leaving them barefoot and wearing a single layer of clothing. Defendant Castillo asked another agent for a cigarette lighter and then lit a fire which contained the victims’ shoes and clothing. Zuniga and Castillo then ordered the victims to run away, without shoes or socks, and wearing only a single layer of clothing. The four victims spent the night in the desert and were rescued the next morning by a Tribal Police Officer.
Following the completion of their prison sentences, each defendant will serve a three year term of supervised release.
The investigation in this case was conducted by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. The prosecution was handled by Karen Rolley and Eric Markovich, Assistant United States Attorneys, District of Arizona, Tucson.
CASE NUMBER: 11-CR-02727-JGZ
RELEASE NUMBER: 2013-085_ Zuniga&Castillo
For more information on the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/az/