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Old 01-29-10, 09:11 PM   #1
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Default Mexico extradites suspect in agent slaying

Mexico extradites suspect in agent slaying

Friday, January 29, 2010 at 12:26 a.m.

FEDERAL COURT — The Mexican government has extradited a man who has been indicted in the United States on charges of running down a Border Patrol agent in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area in January 2008.

Jesus Navarro Montes was indicted in May on second-degree murder and drug smuggling charges in federal court. The indictment says that on Jan. 19, 2008, he drove a Hummer that authorities allege was carrying drugs and ran down Agent Luis Aguilar.

Aguilar was in a road placing spike strips to stop the vehicle when he was struck.

Navarro is in Houston and will be transferred to San Diego, according to federal prosecutors.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego announced the extradition but declined further comment on the case.

Navarro was arrested by Mexican authorities on unrelated immigrant smuggling charges just days after Aguilar was killed. He was held in a prison in Mexicali until June 2008, when a judge released him.

The release caused an uproar on the U.S. side until Mexican authorities said that they could not hold Navarro because they had not received an extradition request from the United States.

Mexican officials said that as early as February 2008 they had asked the United States to seek extradition or provide evidence that would allow them to detain Navarro, but never got it. Navarro was rearrested last year in Mexico.

The 2008 controversy prompted a letter to the Justice Department from U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Carlsbad, and signed by three dozen congressmen inquiring whether Navarro’s extradition was sought.

Yesterday, Bilbray said Navarro not being turned over earlier was the fault of the United States.

“It was our bureaucracy that bobbled and dropped the ball,” he said. “As far as we know it was our mistake, not Mexico’s.”

Bilbray praised Mexico’s ongoing efforts to extradite citizens who are charged with U.S. crimes. But he said he was concerned that in the case of Aguilar the Justice Department may have secured the extradition by promising Navarro would not face the death penalty.

Bilbray said drug smugglers accused of killing U.S. border law enforcement should face the death penalty.

The second-degree murder charge Navarro faces does not carry the special allegations that could lead to the death penalty.

Mexico long has declined to extradite defendants who face the death penalty because capital punishment has been banned there for decades.

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