A federal grand jury in Texas lodged human trafficking charges against James Matthew Bradley Jr. on Wednesday in connection with last month’s horrific smuggling incident that left 10 illegal immigrants dead.
The deaths stunned the country, and sparked a renewed debate about the rough conditions illegal immigrants often brave in order to sneak into the U.S. and get to a final destination here.
As many as 200 illegal immigrants were packed into the trailer of the truck, but authorities found just 39 at the scene when they arrived at a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio on July 23 after receiving a tip from a store employee that something was wrong.
Nine of the migrants were dead that night, and a 10th died the next day. Two more remain hospitalized, 22 remain in federal custody as witnesses, while four children and one adult have been released to the government.
The one adult is in deportation proceedings while the children were turned over to social workers.
Of the 10 dead, one was a juvenile.
Mr. Bradley is still in federal custody.
Police said that when they found the truck Mr. Bradley was in the cab, while the more than three dozen migrants were standing or lying in the trailer.
Wednesday’s indictment, handed up by a grand jury in San Antonio, says the smuggling conspiracy began on July 12.
The five charges he faces are transporting illegal immigrants resulting in death; transporting illegal immigrants resulting in injury; conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal immigrants resulting in death; conspiracy to transport illegal immigrants resulting in injury; and possession of a firearm by a felon.
The most serious of the charges of conspiracy resulting in death could carry a death sentence.
Eight of the 10 dead migrants were publicly identified in the indictment. Authorities said they have yet to identify one adult, while the juvenile’s identity is being withheld.