Guilty Verdict in First Illegal Alien Trespass Trial in Texas

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BRACKETTVILLE, Texas—The first jury trial under Texas’s Operation Lone Star border program wrapped up in Kinney County, Texas, on May 9.

The defendant, Honduran native Lester Hidalgo Aguilar, was found guilty of criminal trespass on a local ranch and sentenced to the maximum jail time of one year. The judge declined to apply an accompanying fine, which could have been up to $4,000, but said Aguilar should pay court costs ($290).

Aguilar’s trial was a litmus test for the Operation Lone Star arrests, which began around July last year as Gov. Greg Abbott directed state troopers to arrest trespassers on state or private land.

Until now, almost all defendants have pleaded guilty or no contest to trespass or other misdemeanor charges, and have reached a plea deal of time served and no fine.

Aguilar’s trespass charge was enhanced to a Class B misdemeanor as he was found beyond 100 feet inside the property line of an agricultural operation, then elevated to a Class A as the crime occurred during a declared state disaster.

Most of the Operation Lone Star arrests have taken place in Kinney County, with ranchers and landowners increasingly finding cut fences, broken water troughs, and other property damage as scores of illegal immigrants have traversed their land to avoid law enforcement.

The Del Rio border sector, in which Kinney County sits, is consistently one of the highest regions for illegal immigrant “gotaways”—those who are detected by Border Patrol but evade capture.

In April, preliminary numbers from Customs and Border Protection revealed more than 16,000 gotaways in the Del Rio sector.

Those gotaways either coordinate with smugglers to drive them to San Antonio or Houston, or walk through private ranchland until they’re clear of the Border Patrol highway checkpoints, then arrange for transport.

Cheryl Gabler Tomlin, upon whose family ranch Aguilar was arrested, testified at the trial, saying the property is fully fenced and no one was authorized to enter the property, where she raises cattle and goats.

After the trial, she told The Epoch Times she was satisfied with the outcome. “I thought he would get off. I’m happy,” she said as she left the courtroom.

Tomlin said her life has changed considerably in the past year and a half as more illegal aliens encroach on her land. She recalled one of her scariest moments when she was opening a fence to let her horses out while still astride her ATV. A man appeared, and she said he whispered, “Don’t tell, don’t tell,” and leapt over the fence toward her ATV.

She hit the gas, and he struck the side of the ATV and fell down. She waved down Border Patrol agents who were down the road looking for him. The agents arrested the man and later told her he was a five-time aggravated assault felon from Honduras.

“I have a gun all the time now,” Tomlin said.

By Charlotte Cuthbertson

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