Truck driver in fatal Texas immigrant case pleads guilty

A co-conspirator has also been charged.

In July, a truck driver was arrested for transporting illegal immigrants across the US border into Texas, 10 of which died of heat stroke. Now, the driver, James Matthew Bradley Jr., 61, has pleaded guilty.

Bradley pleaded guilty on Monday to smuggling charges and could face up to life in prison, according to prosecutors.

Reuters reported, “Bradley pleaded guilty at a federal court in San Antonio to one count of conspiracy to transport aliens resulting in death and one count of transporting aliens resulting in death, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas said in a statement.”

The charges against Bradley could have carried the death penalty because his crimes resulted in people dying while in transit; however, U.S. Attorney Richard L. Durbin Jr. announced last month that the government would not seek the death penalty in this case.

There will be a sentencing hearing held in January. Bradley has been in custody since his arrest in July, and his lawyers do not wish to comment on the guilty plea.

Ten Dead From Heatstroke and Dehydration

A Walmart store employee was contacted by one of the trailer’s occupants who asked for water and said that others inside the trailer needed help. San Antonio police responded to the scene and found that 17 of the 38 people inside were suffering from life-threatening injury and illness due to the extreme heat inside the trailer.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported that there were likely more than 100 people inside the truck at one point, but many escaped.

According to a federal criminal complaint filed today, Bradley told police that he was transporting the trailer from Iowa to a location in Texas and had no idea what was inside. An ICE news release stated, “Bradley said he was traveling from Laredo to San Antonio, after having the tractor-trailer washed and detailed at a truck stop near Laredo. He intended to take the trailer to Brownsville to deliver it to someone who had purchased it.

Bradley said that he only realized that he was transporting human cargo when he stopped to urinate and heard banging and yelling coming from inside the trailer. He told investigators that he opened up the trailer door and was knocked over by people who he described as “Spanish” as they fled. Bradley told police that he attempted to help the people inside.

Bradley was operating as an independent contractor for a man who bought the truck from the Pyle Transportation Inc. in May.

The Truth Comes Out, Eventually

Now prosecutors are saying that Bradley did know that he was transporting human cargo from the border city of Laredo to San Antonio.

The prosecutors also stated that there were as many as 200 people inside the trailer.

Shane Folden, a  special agent in charge with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, said in a statement, “Today’s admission of guilt by Mr. Bradley helps to close the door on one of the conspirators responsible for causing the tragic loss of life and wreaking havoc on those who survived this horrific incident.”

Pedro Silva Segura, 47, an undocumented alien living in Laredo, has been charged as a co-conspirator.

This case is considered to be the second worst immigrant smuggling case in modern U.S. history since 19 people died after traveling in an 18-wheeler truck through Victoria, Texas, in 2003.