EL PASO, Texas (AP) — The trial of a man authorities say was a bodyguard to a now-dead Mexican drug cartel leader began Wednesday as prosecutors and defense attorneys outlined their arguments on murder, gun and drug trafficking charges.
Federal prosecutor John Johnston said witnesses and evidence will show Rigoberto Ruiz Alatorre, 36, was part of a marijuana and cocaine smuggling operation with Gabino Salas Valenciano, a man believed to have run the Sinaloa drug cartel's operations across the border from El Paso County until Mexican authorities killed him last year.
Johnston also said Ruiz Alatorre was involved in trafficking guns from the U.S. into Mexico to arm the Sinaloa cartel in its war against the Juarez cartel. Johnston said they will present evidence and witnesses to show Ruiz Alatorre killed Fermin Rodrigez in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2006.
Rodriguez, Johnston said, was an associate of Ruiz Alatorre's but announced he would start his own drug trafficking operation. Ruiz Alatorre became concerned that if Rodriguez got caught he might collaborate with authorities, so Ruiz Alatorre shot him in the head, Johnston said.
Defense attorney Randolph Ortega told the jury that prosecution witnesses, men who have "lived a life of crime," were paid with money or reduced sentences to cooperate with the government. He also told the jury that his client was not made aware of his right to an attorney and right to remain silent when he was interviewed by Drug Enforcement Administration agents on February 16, 2012.
"The statement Ruiz gave was not recorded, nor signed ... it was molded to fit what they wanted," he said.
Ruiz Alatorre has told the El Paso Times that he didn't know Salas Valenciano was involved in drugs.
DEA agent Jason Wick, the first witness of the day, said Ruiz Alatorre was not told of his Miranda rights because at the time he gave the statement he was not under arrest.
Johnston said that Ruiz Alatorre in statements to DEA agents admitted that he knew Salas Valenciano and that he was paid $50,000 to protect the alleged drug lord.