Wednesday, May 19, 2004


WOAI: SAN ANTONIO//NEWS: "Trial Following Immigrant Deaths Postponed
LAST UPDATE: 5/19/2004 5:56:15 AM
Posted By: Walker Robinson
The first trial related to the nation's deadliest human smuggling attempt was delayed indefinitely on Tuesday.
Just before jury selection in the trial of Erica Cardenas was to begin, U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore granted prosecutors' request for postponement.
Cardenas is charged with extorting money for the safe return of a then 3-year-old Honduran boy whose mother survived the smuggling attempt that left 19 illegal immigrants dead.
Nancy Herrera, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, would not comment on reasons for the delay or when the trial might be rescheduled. Gilmore has told attorneys in the case not to speak with the media.
The case was the first scheduled for trial in the smuggling attempt, in which 17 people were found dead in a trailer at a truck stop near Victoria on May 14, 2003. Two died later.
They were among more than 70 immigrants packed into a hot, stifling trailer. The victims died from dehydration, hyperthermia and suffocation. Temperatures inside the trailer reached 173 degrees.
Cardenas, along with her boyfriend, Juan Carlos Don Juan, are accused of trying to extort between $1,300 and $1,500 for the return of the boy. Don Juan, 22, pleaded guilty in March and faces up to 10 years in prison.
Neither Cardenas nor Don Juan were charged with conspiracy because they were not directly involved in the smuggling ring, officials said. Gilmore earlier ruled the charges involving Cardenas are unrelated to the deaths.
The delay came a day after Gilmore barred prosecutors from using allegedly incriminating statements Cardenas made during an interview with authorities.
She allegedly admitted"


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