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Plea is guilty in human smuggling

HOUSTON — The last of 14 people indicted in the nation’s deadliest human-smuggling attempt pleaded guilty yesterday, federal prosecutors said.

Octavio Torres-Ortega, 42, was accused of leading one of the subordinate rings involved in the smuggling attempt that led to the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants packed in a sweltering tractor-trailer five years ago.

He pleaded guilty to conspiring to harbor and transport immigrants aliens illegally in the United States resulting in death and serious bodily injury, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

More than 70 immigrants were being transported to Houston from Harlingen in southern Texas when the truck driver abandoned the trailer at a truck stop near Victoria, about 100 miles southwest of Houston, in 2003. The victims died of dehydration, overheating and suffocation.

Torres-Ortega faces life in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 8.

Truck driver Tyrone Williams was sentenced to life in prison. Other defendants have been convicted, pleaded guilty or won dismissal of charges. Those convicted have been sentenced to terms of up to 23 years in prison.


Insanity defense disputed at trial

SEATTLE — The man accused of shooting up the Seattle Jewish Federation two years ago, killing one woman and wounding five, was not insane, but had a deliberate plan to make a blood-soaked political point, prosecutors said yesterday as his trial opened.

Naveed Haq, 32, of Tri-Cities, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of murder and attempted murder in the July 2006 attack. If convicted, he faces life in prison without parole.

Prosecutor Erin Ehlert said Mr. Haq stalked through the office, shooting one victim after another, in one case reaching over a cubicle wall before pulling the trigger. She said he chased Pamela Waechter toward an exit, fatally shooting her as she ran down the stairs.

Miss Ehlert told jurors yesterday that Mr. Haq carefully planned his attack, making four separate trips to gun shops and using the Internet to map the 227-mile trip from his parents’ home in Pasco, Wash., to the Jewish Federation in Seattle.

John Carpenter, Mr. Haq’s defense attorney, called the shooting “the acts of a madman.” He said the defense would present volumes of mental health files, showing Mr. Haq’s bipolar schizophrenic and psychotic tendencies, including grandiose thoughts, hearing voices from walls and paranoid delusions.

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