Truck driver Tyrone
Williams was convicted by a jury today, March 23, in the smuggling deaths of 19
illegal immigrants in 2003, media outlets reported.
Williams, 34, a
resident of Schenectady, NY, could have faced the death penalty in the case.
However, after the jury temporarily deadlocked during the deliberations, it
finally convicted him on some charges while sparing him from execution.
The case arose in
2003 when a group of more than 70 immigrants from Mexico, Central American and
the Dominican Republic were being transported in a tractor-trailer from south
Texas to Houston.
officials said that the truck driver – whom they identified as Williams – left
the trailer in the early morning hours of May 14 of that year. As the heat in
the trailer increased, 19 of those inside died – most from dehydration,
hyperthermia and suffocation. Among the victims was a 5-year-old boy from
The victims – men,
women and children from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – were
apparently so desperate for air that they tried to claw through insulation on
the back door. Authorities said they thought as many as 100 people were crammed
in the trailer.
convicted on 38 charges of transporting illegal immigrants, The Associated Press reported. However,
the jury remained deadlocked on the rest of the 58 charges he faces, including
those that could bring the death penalty.
Fourteen people were
identified as suspects in the case; prosecutors have said most were part of the
smuggling ring that brought the 74 aliens into the country.
Two of those
suspects – Fredy Giovanni Garcia-Tobar, 25, Harlingen, TX, and Victor Jesus
Rodriguez, 38, Brownsville, TX – were convicted of multiple charges in the case
in late December 2004, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston said. Their
sentencing is scheduled for March 28, according to U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby
investigation was conducted by the Houston, San Antonio, Harlingen, Brownsville
and McAllen, TX, offices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the Inspector General;
the Texas Department of Public Safety; the Texas Rangers; the Victoria County
Sheriff's Department; the McAllen Police Department; the Harlingen Police
Department; and the Victoria Police Department.
Rodriguez were convicted of: conspiracy to transport aliens unlawfully in the
United States in a way that resulted in injury or death; helping conceal and
transport 19 of the surviving aliens in a way that resulted in injury; and
aiding and abetting the unlawful transportation of the 19 aliens who died. Both
faced 58 counts, and could be imprisoned for life.
“This case involves
the greatest loss of life in recent history in what appears to be an
alien-smuggling case,” Asa Hutchinson, then undersecretary for border and
transportation security at the Homeland Security Department, said in 2003. He
said the case was “a horrific reminder of the callous disregard smugglers have
for their human cargo.”