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Archive for March 10th, 2022

CBP Agent Convicted of Using Excessive Force at Border Crossing

CBP officer (Photo: CBP via Twitter)

By Steve Neavling

A CBP officer who yanked a driver from his car and shoved him to the ground at a border crossing was convicted Wednesday of using unreasonable force. 

A federal jury found Marcos Valenzuela guilty of deprivation of rights under color of law and falsification of records in a federal investigation. 

The incident occurred on Aug. 16, 2019, when Valenzuela was assigned to primary vehicle inspection at the Calexico West Port Entry between Mexico and Southern California. A driver got out of his car to confront a motorcyclist for cutting in front of his vehicle. 

Valenzuela instructed the man to return to his car or he would “throw him to the ground.” The driver complied, but Valenzuela continued to yell at him and eventually ordered him to get out of his car. While the driver was turning off his vehicle, Valenzuela pulled him out of the car and threw him to the ground, causing minor injuries to his neck forehead and forearm. 

Valenzuela handcuffed the driver and told officials in the security office that the driver was the aggressor. Valenzuela also made numerous false statements in a follow-up report, prosecutors said. 

“The jury has found that Marcos Valenzuela used excessive force and deprived a United States citizen of his right under the Fourth Amendment to be free from unreasonable search and seizure,” U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said in a statement. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office takes every allegation of excessive force by law enforcement officers very seriously, and where those allegations are supported by the evidence, we will take the appropriate action to ensure that the transgressors are held accountable.  Along with our law enforcement agency partners, we are dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of all members of our community.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner added, “Today’s guilty verdict demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to holding everyone accountable for their criminal actions, regardless of the position they hold.”

Valenzuela is scheduled to be sentenced on July 8. 

“CBP employees and officers take an Oath of Office, a solemn pledge that conveys great responsibility and one that should be carried out at all times with the utmost professionalism,” Elizabeth Cervantes, special agent in charge of the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility in San Diego, said. “CBP employees who disregard that oath and instead choose to violate the trust of the citizens they swore to protect will be held accountable.  CBP will continue to work with our partners at other agencies to seek out and investigate any instance of abuse. This layered approach and collaboration among federal agencies is critical to the mission of professional integrity. Although the percentage of prosecutions for abuse is very small, no incident is tolerated.”

FBI Pledges to Continue Searching for Answers about Robert Levinson on 15th Anniversary of Disappearance

Former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared while in Iran.

By Steve Neavling

On the 15th anniversary of Robert Levinson’s disappearance on Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray pledged to continue searching for answers about the mystery of his whereabouts. 

Levinson, whose 74th birthday is today, disappeared while on Kish Island, a tourist spot off the coast of Iran. He worked part-time for the CIA, and U.S. officials believed he died while in Iranian custody.  

“Fifteen years passed since Bob disappeared in Iranian territory, but no matter how much time goes by, Bob will forever remain part of our FBI family,” Wray said in a statement. “The FBI and our partners in the U.S. government will continue to seek answers for Bob’s wife, children, and grandchildren. We remain steadfast in our mission to bring Bob home where he belongs, and we will continue to pursue every lead to accomplish that mission, including calling on Iran to assist with Bob’s return.”

Levinson was an FBI special agent for 22 years. 

The FBI renewed its calls to Iran to share information that could lead to Levinson’s return and said the bureau would “hold those responsible for Bob’s disappearance accountable.”

In 2019,  the Department of State Rewards for Justice Program offered a reward of up to $20 million for information that leads to Levinson’s “location, recovery and return.”