AP | Apr. 5, 2012
Juárez cartel member Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez accused of litany of killings including a US consulate worker
A top Mexican drug gangster of the Juárez cartel who is blamed for more than 1,500 killings including that of a US consulate employee has been sentenced to life in prison by an American court.
Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez pleaded guilty in El Paso district court to 11 counts that included conspiracy, racketeering and murder. Judge Kathleen Cardone gave Acosta seven concurrent life terms, three additional consecutive life terms and 20 years in federal prison.
Acosta allegedly headed La Linea, the Juárez cartel's enforcement arm. Mexican authorities say the former police officer admitted to ordering more than 1,500 killings after being captured in July with his bodyguard in the northern Mexico city of Chihuahua.
Mexico extradited Acosta to the US three weeks ago.
In a plea bargain Acosta admitted racketeering, conspiracy to distribute and possess drugs, and murder. The document specified that the three murder-related charges carried mandatory life sentences.
Acosta, nicknamed Diego, was one of 10 people named in the indictment as participating in the killings of Leslie Ann Enriquez, an employee at the US consulate in Juárez; her husband, Arthur Redelfs; and Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of another consulate employee. On 13 March 2010 Enriquez and Redelfs left the same children's party as Salcido. Both were driving white SUVs that were pursued separately by gunmen and riddled with bullets.
When Mexican police arrested Acosta last year, President Felipe Calderón said through his Twitter account that it was "the biggest blow" to organised crime in the violence-plagued border city of Ciudad Juárez.
A factual summary attached to the plea explained that around 2008 Acosta became La Linea's leader and the cartel's plaza boss in Chihuahua and Juárez. He co-ordinated "armed enforcement actions" with the Barrio Azteca gang against their common enemies. At the time, the cartel led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes was waging a bloody war with the Sinaloa cartel. The Mexican government has counted more than 9,500 murders tied to drug violence in Ciudad Juárez between 2008 and 2011.
Meanwhile, a Chicago federal judge has thrown out a sensational claim by a confessed Sinaloa cartel lieutenant imprisoned in Michigan that the US government granted him blanket immunity that gave him carte blanche to smuggle cocaine over the border. Lawyers for Vicente Zambada claimed US agents granted him and other cartel leaders the immunity in exchange for intelligence about rival cartels engaged in bloody turf wars in Mexico.
Judge Ruben Castillo wrote that he examined public and sealed documents from US agents denying this. "The court's independent review of these documents established that none of these classified documents support defendant's legal position," Castillo wrote.
Zambada, son of the Sinaloa cartel boss Ismael Zambada, has been trying to use the claims as part of his defence against trafficking conspiracy charges punishable by life in prison. He is imprisoned awaiting an October trial in US federal court.