San Antonio judge sentences deadly truck smuggling accomplice to nine years, says it’s way too little
A Mexican national was sentenced Wednesday to nine years in federal prison, the maximum he could get for his role in an immigrant smuggling venture that ended with the deaths of 10 people in 2017.
Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra said he would have given Pedro Silva Segura, 47, a sentence of 30 to 40 years in prison but federal sentencing guidelines stopped him.
“Basically, what this defendant did is he traded in the lives of these individuals for cash,” the judge said.
Silva, who operated a stash house in Laredo, dropped off five immigrants in Laredo who were later loaded into a tractor-trailer containing dozens of other people who were transported north by trucker James Matthew Bradley Jr, 62.
In late July 2017, Bradley pulled the tractor-trailer over at a South Side Walmart, where San Antonio police found 39 immigrants inside or near the unairconditioned trailer suffering from dehydration or worse. Of the 39, eight were dead on scene, and two more were pronounced dead at area hospitals. The remaining 19 remained hospitalized for several days, including two that Silva had dropped off to be loaded into the trailer. They helped Homeland Security Investigations agents identify Silva, according to Silva’s lawyer, Adriana Arce-Flores.
At Wednesday’s sentencing, Ezra said the victims were locked in the sweltering trailer without water “to the point where they literally cooked alive.” Ezra also said he believed the feds could have charged Silva with something else that could have brought a higher sentence, but Assisant U.S. Attorney Christina Playton said Silva pleaded guilty to the highest count in his indictment.
“Well, it isn’t high enough,” Ezra said. “People died a horrible death.”
The investigation later revealed that several sport-utility vehicles had picked up many other immigrants from the scene before police arrived. Among them were three of the immigrants Silva had dropped off, Arce-Flores said.
“I’m very regretful for what happened,” Silva told Ezra. “If it had been within my (control), I would not have let those people suffer like they did.”
Arce-Flores said her client did not know the cooling unit on the trailer was not working because he dropped off his five immigrants where someone else picked them up and delivered them to the trailer.
Silva pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to transport undocumented immigrants resulting in death, the same charge as Bradley.
But unlike Bradley, Silva’s recommended sentencing guideline range was far lower because of legalities in federal law and Silva’s role was different.
Bradley scored a recommended sentence of life in prison, and Ezra sentenced him to that in April. Silva’s guideline range was seven years, three months to nine years in prison.
Silva will serve his sentence and will then be deported. Silva also forfeited $2,000 that investigators seized from him.
Guillermo Contreras covers federal court and immigration news in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @gmaninfedland