(Houston, Texas) In 2003, a human smuggling ring attempted to transport 70 illegal aliens from Mexico to Houston in a tractor-trailer rig. Nineteen ultimately died from hyperthermia, asphyxiation and dehydration inside the sealed trailer. To date, it is the deadliest human smuggling incident.
A prosecutor today accused a federal judge of abusing judicial discretion for allowing a member of a smuggling ring blamed for the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants to go free.
U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore sentenced Houston restaurant owner Norma Gonzalez Sanchez to 30 months in prison. Because she has been jailed for 33 months, the sentence meant she could be released as soon as processing is completed at the federal detention center, possibly tonight.
Prosecutors had asked Gilmore to set a stern example in the first sentencing of one of 12 people accused of a role in the bungled smuggling attempt.
Unfortunately, Judge Gilmore didn't share the prosecution's assessment of the seriousness of the crime and decided that sternness wasn't appropriate. Judge Gilmore also refused to delay sentencing to allow for an appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.