Three convictions handed down in immigrants' deaths

| 2/10/2006

Three people have been convicted in a human smuggling case that resulted in the deaths of 19 people inside a truck trailer in Texas in 2003.

The Associated Press reported that the defendants were convicted on Wednesday, Feb. 8, of conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal immigrants and several other counts. All are facing life in prison.

The three – Victor Sanchez Rodriguez, his wife Emma Sapata Rodriguez and her half-sister, Rosa Sarrata Gonzalez – were accused of hiding and transporting some of the immigrants before they were loaded onto the trailer in South Texas.

A retrial of Tyrone Williams, the truck driver charged for his role in the deaths, was postponed indefinitely in December 2005. Williams is facing the death penalty in 58 counts of transporting illegal immigrants.

In March 2005, Williams was convicted of 38 of the 58 smuggling counts. The jury in that trial was deadlocked on the rest, leading prosecutors to pursue a retrial on all 58 charges.

More than 70 illegal immigrants were packed into the trailer to be hauled to Houston. The trailer was later abandoned at a truck stop, where temperatures reached as high as 173 degrees, killing 19 of those inside.

A total of 14 people were indicted in the case. Not including the truck driver and the three most recently convicted, two from the remaining 14 were convicted of various smuggling charges; charges against two others were dismissed; five pleaded guilty and one man remains a fugitive.