SAN DIEGO – A federal judge tentatively approved on Thursday the settlement offer proposed by the United States administration to put an end to a manslaughter lawsuit against 12 federal agents, who beat up a Mexican immigrant in 2010, causing his death.
As part of the settlement, the US government will pay $1 million, to be distributed among Anastasio Hernandez Rojas’ five children, aged 10 to 25 years, and toward legal expenses.
Thursday’s hearing in San Diego, California, was attended by Hernandez’s family as well as human rights activists, while the other side was represented only by attorneys of the agents.
The settlement was tentatively approved by Judge Louisa Porter, pending some procedural details, the lawyers said.
Once the details are settled, the victim’s kin would receive the money within the next eight weeks; two of his children who are still underage will receive their share once they turn 18.
Maria Puga, Hernandez’s wife, said while she had meant to take the case to court, she decided to accept the government’s offer, saying it was time to “turn the page” on a painful process that lasted almost seven years.
“My husband’s life does not have a price,” she said emphasizing the settlement is not justice at a press briefing where she cited other factors that had prompted her decision to accept the settlement, including the fear of the trial’s annulment following Donald Trump, whose anti-immigrant comments have been widely publicized, taking office as the new US president.
“It was for the welfare of our family, for peace,” she added.
Eugene Iredale, who leads the legal team representing the Hernandez family, rued that none of the 12 border safety agents were punished in any way for their actions.
Not a day’s suspension from work, not even a note in their files, Iredale said.
In May 2010, Hernandez, along with his brother, was detained by border patrol agents while trying to re-enter the US illegally.
There was a confrontation when he was taken to the old deportations area near the San Ysidro Port of Entry, during which several agents surrounded and beat up Hernandez, and used a Taser gun against him while holding him down.
In 2015, the Justice Department decided not to press criminal charges against the agents, saying there was insufficient evidence of malicious intent.
Activists, however, filed a case before the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, where the complaint is still pending.
The settlement comes even as the US administration is mulling an increase in the number of federal agents deployed at the country’s border with Mexico.