Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday unsealed the indictment charging five people with crimes in connection with the Operation Fast and Furious-related murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
Holder is already in criminal and civil contempt of Congress for withholding documents related to the Operation Fast and Furious scandal that armed the Mexican drug cartel criminals who murdered Agent Terry.
Holder is offering a $1 million reward to anyone who helps the FBI with “information leading to the arrest of four fugitives.” The fifth person charged with Terry’s killing – and a sixth who was connected with that crime but has already been charged with a lesser crime – have been in custody since December 2010.
“According to the indictment, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes and Lionel Portillo-Meza are charged with crimes including first degree murder, second degree murder, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, attempted interference with commerce by robbery, use and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, assault on a federal officer and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person,” a press release announcing the indictment’s unsealing reads. “A sixth defendant, Rito Osorio-Arellanes, is charged only with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery.”
“The 11-count third superseding indictment, which was handed up by a federal grand jury in the District of Arizona on Nov. 7, 2011, alleges that on Dec. 14, 2010, five of the defendants (Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes and Lionel Portillo-Meza) engaged in a firefight with Border Patrol agents,” the release continues. “During the exchange of gunfire, Agent Terry was shot and killed. The indictment alleges that the defendants had illegally entered the United States from Mexico for the purpose of robbing drug traffickers of their contraband. In addition to the murder of Agent Terry, the indictment also alleges that the five defendants assaulted Border Patrol Agents William Castano, Gabriel Fragoza and Timothy Keller, who were with Agent Terry during the firefight.”
“The indictment is being unsealed today in order to seek the public’s assistance in locating the fugitive defendants,” the statement adds.
Holder is quoted in the statement too, saying he thinks “Agent Terry served his country honorably and made the ultimate sacrifice in trying to protect it from harm, and we will stop at nothing to bring those responsible for his murder to justice.”
“This investigation has previously resulted in one defendant being charged with Agent Terry’s murder and taken into custody, and today’s announcement reflects the department’s unrelenting commitment to finding and arresting the other individuals responsible for this horrific tragedy so that Agent Terry’s family, friends and fellow law enforcement agents receive the justice they deserve,” Holder added.
UPDATE 3:00 p.m.:
House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa said on Fox News that he “applaud[s] what they [Holder’s DOJ] are doing but condemn[s] the timing.”
“It’s clear the timing has to do with the House of Representatives holding Eric Holder in contempt for not turning over information,” Issa said of the move to unseal the indictments. “The Terry family should have seen this attempt to go public and try to get the murderers of Brian Terry [before now]. For 18 months they have known and haven’t done everybody they could do to capture these individuals. This is another example of using politics over good policy. Again, I applaud the fact that we are going public and we are trying to make it clear that these people are among the USA’s and Mexico’s most wanted. But at the same time, the timing is very dubious.”
House oversight committee ranking Democratic member Rep. Elijah Cummings said in a statement that he “commend[s] the Department of Justice for its vigorous pursuit of justice for Brian Terry’s family. I remain dedicated to ensuring that his family and the American people get the answers they deserve.”
It’s unclear what Cummings thinks of the timing of this release – after 18 months of the Department of Justice having this information and Holder being held in criminal and civil contempt of Congress. His spokeswoman Ashley Etienne didn’t immediately answer that question.