Mexican Gets Life Sentence For Death Of
U.S. Coast Guard Officer: Report
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[May 13, 2014]
(Reuters) - A Mexican man convicted
in the 2012 killing of a U.S. Coast Guard officer, the first on-duty
death since 1927, was sentenced on Monday to life in federal prison
without the possibility of parole, a newspaper reported.
A federal jury had convicted 42-year-old Jose Meija-Leyva, of
Ensenada, of second-degree murder, among other charges, in the death
of Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, the U.S. Attorney's office
said in February.
"The defendant had a choice to simply flee and attempt to evade
capture, but chose to aggressively attempt to disable the Coast
Guard small boat before making his getaway," prosecutors argued,
according to the Los Angeles Times newspaper.
Another man, 44-year-old Manuel Beltran-Higuera was sentenced to 10
years in federal prison on lesser charges, the newspaper reported.
The U.S. Attorney's office was not immediately available to confirm
Prosecutors sought the life term on the grounds of previous
smuggling and drugs-related convictions in the United States and
Mexico, the Times said, adding the men were believed to have been
supplying gasoline to other smuggling boats.
Horne, 34, of Redondo Beach, was killed early on December 2 while
investigating the roughly 30-foot-long open fishing vessel with two
men on board - identified as Beltran-Higuera and Meija-Leyva - off
Santa Cruz Island, the Times reported.
As Horne's boat approached the vessel the two men throttled the
engines and steered into the officer's smaller, inflatable boat
carrying four officers, the U.S. Attorney's office said.
Horne's head smacked a propeller as he and a fellow officer were
thrown overboard and he later died. The other officer cut his knee.
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The Coast Guard aircraft followed the fishing vessel, which sped
away after the collision. It was intercepted about four hours later
by a military vessel some 20 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border,
according to the U.S. Attorney's office.
Horne, who was posthumously given the higher rank of senior chief
petty officer, was survived by his pregnant wife and two young sons,
the Los Angeles Times reported.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Gareth Jones)
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