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Murder Counts Vacated for Cartel Hitmen Who Killed ICE Agent

Two Los Zetas cartel assassins convicted of murdering a federal agent 9 years ago have had their murder convictions vacated and remanded to a lower court for limited re-sentencing, according to a Fox News report.

Jose Emanuel Garcia Sota, aka “Zafado,” and Jesus Ivan Quezada Pina, aka “Loco,” had been convicted of four counts in the murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, on Feb 15, 2011. A jury in Washington returned the verdict in 2017.

Last month, a DC federal appeals court vacated their convictions on two of those counts. The men have been remanded to a lower court and will face limited re-sentencing for the murder and attempted murder of a federal officer. The court reached its decision on technical grounds. Garcia Sota, 39, and Quezada Pina, 32, are serving life sentences in prison on those two counts. The Monitor newspaper in McAllen, Texas, reported Saturday.

They are also serving life on a third count they asked the court to overturn — use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence causing death. The court rejected their appeal on that count.

The two men had also been sentenced to 20 years in prison on the fourth count, which criminalizes the killing of certain persons protected under international law. They did not challenge that conviction.

The two agents were on assignment and driving in a government SUV through San Luis Potosi Mexico when they were ambushed February 15th 2011. A Los Zetas hit squad killed Zapata while trying to steal vehicles, the paper reported. Another ICE agent, Victor Avila, was wounded in the attack.

But according to Senior Circuit Judge Williams, the two cartel members should never have been charged or convicted of 18 U.S.C.§ 1114, which criminalizes the killing of an officer or employee of the United States.

Judge Williams who overturned the two counts of murder against the duo, said neither Garcia Sota and Quezada Pina can face charges of murder or attempted murder of an officer or employee of the U.S. – because they didn’t kill Agent Zapata in the United States.

The agent was killed while in Mexico thus, the judge at the appellate level of the courts said that murder and attempted murder under § 1114 has a “purely domestic scope”.

The appeals court remanded their case for “a limited resentencing in which the district court may determine whether to modify its sentence in light of our vacatur.”

Law Enforcement Today writes:  “It’s concerning to know that people who commit crimes against not just law enforcement, but any American citizen, can avoid federal prosecution if certain crimes are committed outside the United States”.