Monday, March 16, 2009

Jury acquits Border Patrol agent on rape charge

It is frequently stated the women have no incentive to make false accusations of rape. However, a promise of citizenship and $50,000.00 may have changed that in the following case.

Border Patrol Agent Acquitted.

EDINBURG, Texas — An Hidalgo County jury on Thursday acquitted a Border Patrol agent who was accused of raping an illegal immigrant on a secluded dirt road in rural South Texas in 2007.

The jury deliberated just more than an hour before returning the acquittal for Border Patrol Agent Alberto Garcia.

When the verdict on the sexual assault charge was read, Garcia embraced his attorney and later sat with his head in his arms and sobbed.

Outside the courtroom, Garcia said, "I just thank God, my family, my attorney."

"I knew in my heart I didn't do it," Garcia said.

Reynaldo Merino, his lawyer, said a lack of scientific evidence and inconsistent accounts among the prosecution's witnesses likely failed to persuade the jury. Garcia has been suspended without pay from the Border Patrol.

Merino said Garcia had not decided what his future would be with the agency, but noted that the Department of Homeland Security had investigated him aggressively and there could be hard feelings.

Assistant District Attorney Graciela Saenz Reyna declined to comment after the trial. Earlier, in her closing argument, Reyna said Garcia violated the woman and his oath.

"He didn't do his job. In fact, he abused it," Reyna said. "He's there to protect and serve not to rape and abuse."

The woman was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read.

Garcia, 34, told investigators that he had had a relationship with the woman prior to the October night in 2007, when he said she flagged him down while he was on patrol. He said the sex that night and in a previous encounter was consensual.

Merino told jurors that his client had problems — with his wife and his job — that he probably deserved.

"We're not arguing anything in this case except there was consent," Merino said in his closing argument. He criticized the investigation as rushed and said investigators forced pieces into place.

The 39-year-old victim, who The Associated Press is not identifying because she was the victim of an alleged sexual assault, testified a day earlier that she was riding in a friend's car when Garcia pulled them over in his Border Patrol truck. She said she had never seen him before that night.

Garcia had said he had had sex with the woman months earlier while he was separated from his wife. He had recently gotten back together with his wife when he encountered his accuser. She proposed the sex and said if he didn't she would make trouble for him with his wife, he said.

Garcia, who did not testify during the trial, told investigators he led the women to the secluded spot in Pharr, then drove his Border Patrol vehicle back to the station in McAllen and returned in his own truck for the sexual encounter.

On Thursday, Arminda Perez, a barmaid who worked with the victim testified that the victim told her she had gone out with the agent previously.

On cross-examination, Perez said she could not say when the victim told her about the relationship and that she had never seen her with Garcia. Perez also said that she had been friends with Garcia's father for a decade.

When asked why she had not come forward earlier, Perez said she had not known she had important information until Garcia's father talked to her about the case about a month ago.

"I was confused," she said. "I wasn't interested in this, and I had problems of my own."

Since the alleged rape, the victim had said that she was going to get $50,000 and legal status in the United States if she testified against Garcia, Perez said. But Perez testified she did not know who made such a promise to the victim. An official with the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General testified earlier that the victim had a temporary paroled status allowing her to stay only until the case was resolved.

Reyna suggested that Garcia's father had convinced her to testify. Perez denied that, though conceded that he had spoken to her about it three times before she agreed to testify.