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N4T Investigators: U.S. trying to keep Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal out of slain agent's trial

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  • N4T Investigators: Border Patrol Union calls for gunwalking scandal details to be included in slain agent's murder trial

    N4T Investigators: Border Patrol Union calls for gunwalking scandal details to be included in slain agent's murder trial

    Thursday, September 3 2015 4:12 PM EDT2015-09-03 20:12:16 GMT
    The U.S. Border Patrol's union in Tucson released a statement Thursday afternoon, arguing that federal prosecutors are playing "politics" in trying to remove all mention of the federal government's gun-walking scandal from the upcoming murder trial of slain agent Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.The statement comes in response to a story first reported by the News 4 Tucson Investigators about the government's efforts.The statement reads:"The first step in solving a proble...
    The U.S. Border Patrol's union in Tucson released a statement Thursday afternoon, arguing that federal prosecutors are playing "politics" in trying to remove all mention of the federal government's gun-walking scandal from the upcoming murder trial of slain agent Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.The statement comes in response to a story first reported by the News 4 Tucson Investigators about the government's efforts.The statement reads:"The first step in solving a proble...

The U.S. government is fighting to keep details of how its own federal gun agents let Mexican drug cartels buy rifles in Arizona illegally out of an upcoming murder trial in which two men will be tried for the killing of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry who died after he ran into men carrying those same illegal guns.

In a court filing Monday, prosecutors are trying to keep some details about the guns found at the slain agent’s murder scene away from the jury.

Terry, 40, was part of the Border Patrol’s elite BORTAC unit. In December 2010, the group of agent’s was patrolling an area outside of Nogales, Ariz., named Mesquite Seep. They were looking for a rip-off crew comprised of men from Sinaloa who were roaming the border region in search of drug smugglers to rob. A firefight broke out. Terry was struck by gunfire and died at the scene. One of the rip-off crew members, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, was wounded in the exchange.

Two guns found at the crime scene, AK-47 variants, came from a gunstore in Glendale, Ariz. Prosecutors acknowledge that those two rifles were part of a scandalous Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives program, Operation Fast and Furious. But FBI ballistics experts were never able to tie the rounds that killed Terry to either gun.

Now, the United States wants to keep Operation Fast and Furious out of the murder trial.

Monday’s filing states:

“The defendants should be precluded from mentioning Operation Fast and Furious.”

In the filing, the U.S. acknowledges that two firearms used by members of the rip-off crew were recovered at the scene of the murder.

But prosecutor Laura Duffy writes:

“Informing the jurors in this case of the connection between the firearms and the "Fast and Furious" investigation will serve no legitimate purpose because that connection is irrelevant to the charges against the defendants.”

Former Drug Enforcement agent Jeff Prather now teaches self-defense and weapons training. He was not involved with the gun-walking operation but has worked as a liaison between the ATF and the DEA.

“I would ask you. Does it make any reasonable, rational, logical sense to separate the probable murder weapon from the murder case, unless you are trying to cover something up?”

That has long been a criticism of the Justice Department's gunwalking scandal. 1,400 guns were lost and s some were used in murders in Mexico. Former Attorney General Eric Holder faced much of that criticism.

“This is our former Attorney General who first said there was no Fast and Furious. And then said he didn't know about it. And then admitted that he knew about it,” Prather said.

Two men will stand trial for Terry's murder. Ivan Soto Barraza and Jesus Lionel Sanchez Mesa.

Both men were captured in Mexico and extradited to the U.S. They have pled not guilty to first degree murder.

The recruiter of the rip-off crew was Rosario Burboa Alvarez. In early August, Burboa escaped the death penalty when he pleaded guilty to first degree murder.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego, which is prosecuting the case in Tucson, said Duffy’s office would let the court filing speak for itself. She declined to answer specific questions as to why the U.S. was trying to keep the scandal out of the murder trial.

A federal judge will hear the prosecutor’s arguments before the trial begins.

If you have a tip for the News 4 Tucson Investigators, email investigators@kvoa dot com or call 955 4444.
 

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