LOS ANGELES (CN) – A federal judge agreed to let Mexico extradite one of its nationals from California to face kidnapping charges related to the abduction of a woman and her two young daughters, one of whom died because of the attack.
California’s Central District rejected Jose Luis “Munoz” Santos’ challenge to his removal, finding that the U.S. government had established probable cause.
Munoz is accused of plotting and carrying out the kidnapping of a Mexican shrimp farmer’s wife and two minor daughters for ransom.
According to the testimony of witnesses and two of his co-conspirators, Jesus “Hurtado” Osuna and Fausto Libardo “Rosas” Alfaro, Santos was one of four men involved in the bungled kidnapping.
Rosas testified that he hid, wearing a ski mask and carrying a pistol, in the home of Dignora Hermosillo until she returned with her two daughters. He forced them into Hermosillo’s jeep and drove at high speed away from the house.
After consulting with Munoz on a cellphone, Rosas tied up each daughter and left them out of the car about an hour apart in locations where local fisherman would find them. Later, he left Hermosillo bound hand and foot by a tree, but Hermosillo said she managed to escape by ripping her binds on barbed wire. One of the daughters died.
Initially, the U.S. government wanted to remove Munoz on kidnapping and murder charges, but the Mexican courts later narrowed the charge to kidnapping.
Munoz argued the government’s evidence should be thrown out because Rosas and Hurtado’s statements were obtained by torture.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Wistrich ruled Monday, however, that there was ample evidence to back up the kidnapping charge against Munoz.
“Munoz’s proposed witnesses’ testimony is offered to contradict the version of the facts set forth in the inculpatory statements and to provide a competing, conflicting version of the facts,” Wistrich wrote. “Therefore, Munoz’s evidence offered to show that the inculpatory statements relied on by the government to establish probable cause were recanted and were procured through torture or coercion is inadmissible and has not been considered in determining probable cause.”
The judge also rejected Munoz’s alibi defense. The alleged kidnapper said he was in Los Angeles during the planning stages and was on vacation in Guadalajara, Mexico, the day the plot was carried out.
“The United States Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit have held that evidence offered to prove the existence of a defense to the charged offense, such as an alibi, is contradictory evidence that is not admissible in an extradition hearing,” Wistrich said.
The judge concluded that it was up to the Mexican criminal court to decide if Munoz’s defense will pass muster.