A Texas truck driver has been convicted in what authorities are calling the â€œnationâ€™s deadliest human smuggling attempt.â€ Tyrone Williams faces the death penalty for the smuggling attempt, in which more than 70 illegal aliens were crammed inside Williamsâ€™ â€œtomb-likeâ€ tractor-trailer. According to reports, they â€œscraped at the insulation, broke out the tail-lights and screamed for help.â€ Nineteen of the illegal aliens died from dehydration, overheating and suffocation.
Williams, 35, was convicted of 58 counts for the May 2003 incident. Last year, Williams was convicted of 38 counts, but avoided the death penalty because the jury couldnâ€™t come to an agreement on the smuggling charge. It was deadlocked on 20 other counts. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the juryâ€™s decision was invalid because it didnâ€™t specify his role.
Williamsâ€™ attorney says his client isnâ€™t responsible for the deaths because he didnâ€™t know the illegal aliens were dying until it was too late. Fourteen people were charged in the case; Williams is the only one facing the death penalty. The penalty phase was expected to begin immediately.
Last week, a 23-year-old Denver man was arrested for suspicion of human smuggling after a crash on Interstate 70 that killed four and injured 10. According to reports, Jose Francisco Franco-Rodriguez was driving a minivan that carried 14 people. Authorities say the passengers are of Mexican descent but they have not been identified. Franco-Rodriguez had $329 on him and authorities with the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement say he told them he had received $400 from a smuggling organization in Phoenix. Franco-Rodriguez is being investigated for 14 counts of human smuggling, four counts of careless driving resulting in death, 14 counts of failing to give aid and 14 counts of reckless endangerment. Federal charges are pending. Franco-Rodriguez is being held on a $100,000 bond and an immigration detainer.
Human smuggling is a federal crime.