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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Defendant Extradited To Face Charges In Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry Murder Case

SAN DIEGO, CA – Lionel Portillo-Meza, who is charged with the first degree murder of United States Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, was extradited to the United States from Mexico on June 17, 2014, announced Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy of the Southern District of California.

Agent Terry was fatally shot on Dec. 14, 2010, when he and other Border Patrol agents encountered Portillo-Meza and four others in a rural area north of Nogales, Arizona.

“This marks a major step forward in our aggressive pursuit of those responsible for the murder of Agent Brian Terry, who made the ultimate service while serving his country,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “By securing the extradition of this suspect, the Department of Justice has ensured that he will stand trial and face justice here in the United States. And we will never waver in our commitment to ensure that those who commit acts of violence against our best and bravest can be caught and held accountable – to the fullest extent of the law.”

“This development brings us one step closer to achieving justice for a beloved agent who paid the highest price in protecting this country,” U.S. Attorney Duffy said. “While there is nothing that can be done to bring Agent Terry home again, we hope this news will bring some level of comfort to the family knowing that our team of prosecutors and investigators within the Department of Justice will not stop until the case is resolved.”

Portillo-Meza was arraigned in federal district court in Tucson, Arizona, on June 18, 2014. He entered a not-guilty plea and was detained without bond. The indictment charges Portillo-Meza and others with first degree murder, second degree murder, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, attempted interference with commerce by robbery, use and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence and assault on a federal officer. In addition to the murder of Agent Terry, the indictment alleges that the defendants assaulted Border Patrol Agents William Castano, Gabriel Fragoza, and Timothy Keller, who were with Agent Terry during the firefight.

On July 20, 2012, in order to seek the public’s assistance, Department of Justice officials announced a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to the arrest of four fugitives: Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes, and Portillo-Meza. Portillo-Meza was captured in Mexico in September 2012. Soto-Barraza was captured in Mexico in September 2013.

A fifth defendant, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, pleaded guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison in February 2014. A sixth defendant, Rito Osorio-Arellanes, who was in custody at the time of Agent Terry’s murder, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery and was sentenced to eight years in prison in January 2013.

This case is being prosecuted in federal court in Tucson by attorneys from the Southern District of California, Special Attorneys Todd W. Robinson, David D. Leshner, and Fred Sheppard. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona is recused. This case is being investigated by the FBI. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance with the extradition.

The public is reminded that an indictment is a formal charging document and defendants are presumed innocent until the government meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated July 23, 2015