We were baffled when the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego quietly dropped its case against a Los Angles Police Department officer accused of attempting to smuggle a man across the U.S.-Mexico border at Otay Mesa.
Was he working as part of a top-secret operation that had international implications? Were prosecutors showing favoritism toward a fellow wearer of the badge?
Neither was the case, apparently.
The file was turned over to a a federal grand jury, which yesterday returned with charges against 34-year-old Officer Carlos Curiel Quezada, Jr., and his girlfriend, 31-year-old Angelica Godinez, the U.S. Attorney's Office said yesterday.
The pair is facing allegations of bringing in a foreigner without permission. Here's the people's version of events, according to a U.S. Attorney's statement:
According to court documents, Quezada drove his 2014 Nissan Juke, with Godinez as the front seat passenger, into the United States through the Otay Mesa Port of Entry on March 14, 2015, at about 6:30 p.m. They presented their U.S. passports and told a Customs and Border Protection Officer they had nothing to declare. The officer decided to refer them aside for a more intensive inspection.
During the inspection, officers examined the car with the Z-Portal, a non-intrusive imaging device similar to an X-ray, and detected something unusual in the rear cargo area of the vehicle. Antanasio Perez Avalos, a 26-year-old Mexican national, was found in a compartment in the spare-tire area.
Charges were quickly filed in March but then dismissed without prejudice, which allows allegations to be resubmitted at a later time.
The duo was due in federal court in San Diego this afternoon. If Quezada and Godinez are successfully prosecuted they could each face 10 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine.