Cartel Violence Hangs Over Trial of Charged Investigator

     FORT WORTH (CN) – The family of a Mexican private investigator charged with conspiring to murder an alleged Gulf Cartel attorney is too scared to come to the United States to testify, his attorney told a federal jury Tuesday.
     Wes Ball, with Ball & Hase in Arlington, said the family of his client, Jesus Gerardo Ledezma Cepeda, 59, was called in Mexico by an unknown person last week and told, “We are coming for you.”
     That revelation came as the defense rested Tuesday, cutting short a trial that was expected to last several more weeks.
     Ledezma and his cousin, Jose Luis Cepeda Cortes, 60, of Edinburg, are charged with interstate stalking and conspiracy for murder-for-hire by following attorney and U.S. informant Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa.
     Guerrero was shot dead in May 2013 in broad daylight as he sat in his car at the Southlake Town Center mall in the affluent Dallas suburb of Southlake.
     A white vehicle pulled up behind Guerrero, a shooter got out and fired through Guerrero’s window while ignoring Guerrero’s wife, who was not hurt. The shooter and getaway driver remain at large.
     Neither defendant is accused of being the gunman, but of traveling from Mexico to Southlake “with the intent to kill” Guerrero.
     Ledezma has testified that Beltran Leyva Cartel boss Rodolfo Villarreal “El Gato” Hernandez forced him to stalk Guerrero. He said El Gato blamed Guerrero for his father’s death, and was obsessed with revenge. Ledezma testified that he misled his cousin into helping him by saying Guerrero was a wanted criminal in Mexico.
     Defense expert witness Gary Fleming echoed those sentiments Tuesday, testifying that North Americans are unable to understand how dangerous it is in Mexico, where police corruption is widespread.
     Fleming, a documentary filmmaker, testified that he spoke with cartel members for a film, and that they agreed to speak about their work because they want to be publicized and feared.
     Calling Ledezma a “walking dead man,” Fleming speculated that he will be killed whether he is convicted or not.
     “If he goes to prison, they will kill him because it’s easier there,” Fleming said. “This guy has no chance.”
     On cross-examination, Assistant U.S. District Attorney Joshua Burgess told the jury that Fleming is being paid for testifying and for his role as a defense investigator. Prosecutors unsuccessfully tried to keep Fleming from being designated an expert witness.
     Several of Cepeda’s relatives testified on his behalf Tuesday, including his sister Rosa Madrigal, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security employee. She said she was suspended from work after her brother’s arrest, for suspicion of telling him secret agency information, but was cleared and reinstated.

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