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Defendant In Jail When Border Patrol Agent Was Murdered

Slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
U.S. Border Patrol.
Brian Terry

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Defendant In Jail When Border Patrol Agent Was Murdered

Defendant In Jail When Border Patrol Agent Was Murdered

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Court papers unsealed in Tucson in January show the U.S. government charged a second man in connection with the fatal shooting of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. But this man was sitting in jail the night the murder happened.

Officials at the Central Arizona Detention Center, a private prison in Florence, Ariz. confirm that Rito Osorio-Arellanes has been in custody since December 13, 2010. The date is important: Agent Terry was shot that night, 125 miles south in a canyon near Rio Rico, Ariz.

The unsealed court documents do not specify the new charge against Osorio. In fact, they do not reveal much. They were released after a consortium of Arizona media asked the judge to unseal the Terry murder case in federal court. The judge agreed, but only unsealed parts of the case.

As a result, it is not known the specific charge Osorio faces in connection with Terry's killing. The paperwork merely shows he is listed as a defendant in an indictment handed down in November 2011.

However, unrelated court documents show Osorio was arrested for illegally re-entering the country on Dec. 12, 2010. The criminal complaint filed against him shows he was arrested near where the murder took place.

Judy Ritter is a law professor at Widener Law School in Delaware. She says the U.S. may charge Osorio with conspiracy under what’s called the Pinkerton Rule. If that strategy is used, the U.S. will have to prove Osorio and the other defendants were engaged in border banditry - ripping off illegal migrants in the desert - before he was arrested on the immigration charge.

Photo courtesy U.S. Border Patrol.

Slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

“If we conspire to rob a bank and you go to jail the next day for DUI or whatever and I go ahead and rob the bank and shoot a security guard, you could be criminally liable for a homicide,” Ritter said.

Osorio and one other man, Manuel Osorio Arellanes, are still the only two named defendants in connection with Terry’s murder. An affidavit filed after Arellanes was arrested says he told agents there were five suspects in the desert when the Border Patrol agents found them and the gunfight began.

Manuel was wounded in the shootout. He said he did not fire his weapon when he realized they were federal agents.

Others were also charged in the case. Their names have been redacted from court records.

Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.