Former military police officers indicted in 1994 migrant beating
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ It has been more than three years since the night a group of men charged into a camp of migrant workers, shouting that they were Border Patrol officers and beating one man unconscious.
Investigators, stonewalled by witnesses, closed the case for lack of evidence.
Now five former military police officers are indicted on charges of violating the civil rights of the illegal immigrant who was beaten.
The indictment was returned earlier this week and unsealed Friday. Two pleaded guilty Friday morning to the civil rights charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.
When the case was closed three years ago, the five men all went on to work in law enforcement, enraging Latino and civil rights activists who say the officers’ suspected role in the beating should not have slipped through the cracks.
``If there had been a thorough investigation in 1994, the suspects might well have been kept out of positions of power over migrants,″ said Ray Uzeta of the Chicano Federation.
The FBI reopened the case in the spring after Brian David Gadway, 25, confessed to his role in the beating during a background check for a law enforcement job on the East Coast.
``He was taking a polygraph test for the case, and it came spilling out,″ said Knut Johnson, an attorney for one of the other defendants.
The five, then members of the Marine’s Special Response Team, allegedly entered a migrant camp outside Camp Pendleton dressed in military fatigues, wearing dog tags and carrying handcuffs, the complaint said. U.S. Attorney Alan Bersin said at least one of the Marines carried a military issued semi-automatic pistol.
They identified themselves as law enforcement officers, yelling Spanish slang for ``Border Patrol″ and ``police,″ the indictment said.
Francisco Morales Ramirez, 55, said he was handcuffed and kicked in the jaw, knocking him out. Francisco’s nephew, Justino Mendez, 23, and his wife, Evelia Mayo, 28, said they were physically harassed in the makeshift campsite in Oceanside.
``Alibis were developed in a group of five,″ Bersin said at a news conference Friday. ``All the leads were followed that were available but they ran up against a wall of deceit.″
Knowing the migrants feared deportation, the Marines were assured the nighttime incident would not be reported to authorities, Bersin said.
Five of the alleged attackers, John Patrick Wolf, 29; Shawn Davis Simonet, 24; Corey Paul Gautreaux; Mark Adam Burton, 23; and Gadway were charged with violating the migrants’ civil rights.
Gadway, 25, and Gautreaux, 27, pleaded guilty Friday morning. Gautreaux was a Marine sergeant through this year.
Wolf was formerly an officer with the Escondido Police Department. Burton is a former trainee at the Los Angeles Police Department Academy.
James Bennett Graham, who was away during the attack, warned his fellow Marines that they could go to the brig if they talked to investigators about the beating, said Johnson, his lawyer.
``These guys were young. It was a small, tight-knit team and these guys are trained to die for one another,″ he said.
Graham, 26, pleaded guilty Friday morning to tampering with a witness. He is on administrative leave from the San Diego County Regional Law Enforcement Academy. Prior to that he had served as a San Diego County Correctional Deputy.
A sixth defendant, Charles Frederick Byrne, 28, was charged with being an accessory and providing a false alibi for the assailants. After leaving the military, Byrne served with the Carlsbad Police Department.
It was unclear Friday if the defendants were in custody or free on bail.