The smuggler who was on the helm of an overloaded 40-foot vessel that capsized off Level Loma final yr, inflicting three migrants to drown and sparking a chaotic rescue effort, was sentenced Friday to 18 years in jail.
Antonio Hurtado, 40, who had been residing aboard the growing old trawler-style boat, was illegally shuttling 32 migrants into america the morning of Might 2, 2021, when the vessel drifted onto the rocks under Cabrillo Nationwide Monument and violently broke aside.
He pleaded responsible in April to felony costs of tried human smuggling leading to demise and tried human smuggling for monetary achieve relating to every of the three migrants who died.
In handing down the sentence Friday, U.S. District Decide Janis Sammartino referred to as the case the “most egregious” she’s ever seen in her courtroom in additional than 15 years. The punishment went past the 17-year time period beneficial by federal prosecutors, who referred to as the character and circumstances of the case “extraordinarily aggravated” and “virtually with out comparability” in a border district the place maritime smuggling has grown widespread.
The doomed journey started the evening of Might 1, after different smugglers had delivered the migrants from the Baja California seaside city of Puerto Nuevo to Hurtado’s boat, the Salty Woman, which waited roughly two hours offshore close to the Coronado Islands, in keeping with prosecutors. The migrants had paid $15,000 to $18,000 every to be smuggled into the U.S.
As soon as underway, Hurtado had issue navigating within the stormy waters, and a few of his passengers reported that he repeatedly used medicine throughout the fraught journey. “At one level, Defendant handed out from his drug use, leaving the boat to drive in circles for a prolonged time frame whereas its passengers desperately tried to awaken him,” Assistant U.S. Legal professional Seth Askins wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
Within the predawn hours, the boat’s engine died. Relatively than name the Coast Guard for assist, as his passengers had implored, he referred to as an unidentified co-conspirator to tow the boat to shore. He instructed the migrants to cover under deck.
The tow arrived and tried to help by midmorning, however by that point the boat was perilously near the reef and the seas too rocky.
“Realizing his boat was doomed and selecting to save lots of himself relatively than assist his human cargo, Defendant was the primary particular person to leap from the boat and begin making his technique to shore,” Askins mentioned.
The boat smashed onto the reef. Many migrants remained trapped within the cabin because the boat broke aside. Bystanders close to Cabrillo Nationwide Monument watched the scene in horror, and a few jumped into the water to hitch the rising rescue effort.
Three Mexican migrants suffered blunt-force trauma and drowned: Victor Perez Degollado, 29; Maria Eugenia Chavez Segovia, 41; and Maricela Hernandez Sanchez, 35.
Hurtado, a U.S. citizen, was taken into custody on the scene. When he suggested Border Patrol brokers that he was “coming down” from drug use, brokers ready to take him to a detox facility. As an agent tried to placed on an ankle restraint for the transport, Hurtado slammed his knee into the facet of the agent’s face, prosecutors mentioned.
Protection lawyer Melissa Bobrow mentioned in sentencing paperwork that Hurtado was prescribed Ritalin — a medicine usually used to deal with consideration deficit hyperactivity dysfunction — on the age of three, setting off a lifetime of substance abuse.
“Antonio Hurtado stands earlier than this courtroom because of his drug habit — all the selections he made, the place he put himself into that led to this tragedy, have been the end result of a lifetime of drug habit,” Bobrow mentioned.
She mentioned Hurtado had additionally been underneath monetary stress, unable to search out regular employment because of the pandemic. He had a number of points getting unemployment checks and had made appointments to attempt to type out the delays with the state company within the interval main as much as the smuggling try, she mentioned.
“What occurred that day was probably the most terrifying expertise for each single one who lived by it,” she wrote. “Mr. Hurtado accepts the function he performed in that. He needs he might return in time and do plenty of issues in a different way, from the times main as much as the minutes earlier than the tragedy.”