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First defendant in San Antonio tractor-trailer tragedy pleads guilty to smuggling charges

By William Melhado, The Texas Tribune

First defendant in San Antonio tractor-trailer tragedy pleads guilty to smuggling charges” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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One of the men indicted over last year’s San Antonio tractor-trailer tragedy, in which 53 migrants died, pleaded guilty to several smuggling-related charges on Wednesday, according to the Department of Justice.

Christian Martinez, 29, of Palestine, was involved in the attempt to illegally transport migrants across the southern border, which resulted in the nation’s deadliest human smuggling event after dozens of people were locked in a big rig without water or air conditioning in the Texas summer heat.

An indictment unsealed earlier this year alleged that Martinez drove one of his co-defendants, Homero Zamorano Jr. of Pasadena, 47, to a gas station where Zamorano picked up the trailer. Martinez later communicated messages about the trailer’s progress to others involved in the smuggling activity.

The Justice Department said Martinez is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 4. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Federal prosecutors said seven people face a maximum of life in prison as a result of the tragedy. Martinez is the first to plead guilty.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

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