April 20–A Kentucky trucker who transported several undocumented immigrants from Laredo to San Antonio in a sweltering tractor-trailer, which resulted in the deaths of 10 people, was sentenced today to two concurrent life sentences without parole on each of two counts of conspiracy to transport undocumented immigrants for profit, resulting in death.
“I am so sorry it happened,” James M. Bradley Jr., 61, most recently of Louisville, said in a video statement his public defenders played in court. “There’s not a day or night that goes by that I don’t relive this scene.”
Last July, Bradley Jr. was involved in the deadly incident in which 39 immigrants were found in the back of Bradley’s trailer in the parking lot of a Walmart on San Antonio’s South Side. Eight of the 39 were dead at the scene, two more died at area hospitals and the rest were hospitalized for several days for treatment of heat-related injuries.
San Antonio police officers who responded and a federal agent testified about a gruesome and grisly scene. They said, people were laying on each other, some living among the dead. The trailer’s crevices had urine, feces, vomit and blood. The stench was overwhelming and it “smelled like death.” One officer tried to pass around water, pouring it instead on the voiceless bodies who groaned and moaned as he stepped over people and checked for pulses.
“As I got to back [away from doors] of the trailer, it was increasingly hot and humid,” SAPD officer Hector Ybarra testified. “Along with all my gear, all urine and feces, and vomit, I ended up throwing up myself, twice.”
It was so overwhelming, Ibarra had to step outside of the trailer.
Homeland Security Investigations special agent Cory Downs broke down as he recounted what he saw.
“They tried to cut holes with what they had, keys, a knife, a leatherman,” Downs said. “There was a grated area. Someone tried to claw their way through. There was blood everywhere. …You could tell they just shredeed their hands or whatever they used.”
Bradley’s lawyers argued that Bradley’s lack of education contributed to the incident. He dropped out of school by sixth grade and learned to drive a commercial truck from truckers while he hitchhiked around the country. In his early 20s, he paid a $54 fee to get his license, but was never required to take a written test for it, one of his lawyers told Senior U.S. District Judge DAvid Alan Ezra.
Ezra rejected the defense’s argument that his acts were akin to manslaughter rather than second-degree murder. The argument would have dropped the potential time Bradley faced. Bradley’s lawyers argued for mercy and a sentence at the lower end of a guideline range of 63-to-78 months.
“The defendant’s conduct was extreme by any measure, and therefore it was appropriately calculated by the probation officer and suggested as appropriately laid out for second degree murder as the appropriate measure to use,” Ezra said.
He found the appropriate range to be 360 months to life in prison. Prosecutors argued for a sentence within that range.
Check back later for updates on this story.
Guillermo Contreras is a San Antonio Express-News staff writer. Read more of his stories here. — email@example.com — @gmaninfedland
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