Feds Deny Victim Status for Slain Border Patrol Agent’s Family

Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry, 40, was gunned down and killed on December 14, 2010, near Rio Rico, Arizona. 

The individual who shot and killed Agent Terry allegedly purchased several guns from a known firearms trafficker Jamie Avila, 23, who is connected to the controversial Operation: Fast & Furious

A quick reminder, the parties responsible for Operation: Fast & Furious, mainly the ATF and the DOJ, are now under fire from Congressional investigators because of the non-interdiction and minimal-surveillance techniques used in the operation that permitted approximately 2,000 firearms to walk directly over the U.S. border into Mexico.  Many of those firearms ended up landing in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

Recently, in what is a surprising turn of events for many people following this case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona urged a judge to preclude Agent Terry’s family from receiving crime victim-status in the eyes of the court when they go to prosecute Avila, the accused dealer. 

Crime-victim status is significant because it would allow Terry’s family members to testify at sentencing or parole hearings, receive restitution, and confer with prosecutors on case-related issues in addition to other important privileges.  

According to U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, the family should be denied these privileges because the family was not “directly or proximately harmed” by the illegally purchased and trafficked firearms and therefore they do not satisfy the legal definition of “crime victim.”  Instead, Burke maintains that the true victims of Avila’s weapons trafficking, “is not any particular person, but society in general.”

At this point two things should be noted.  First and foremost is that it is somewhat unusual for a prosecutor to urge a judge to deny potential crime victims their due status.  Typically, if anyone is going to persuade a judge to deny someone crime-victim status, it’s going to be the defense attorneys.  Prosecutors, by in large, tend to endorse crime-victim status.  Secondly, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke has connections to Operation: Fast & Furious.  That is, according to a Fox News report, “the operation, while executed by agents for the Bureau of Alcohol Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was managed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley. Hurley drafted the response to the family’s motion. It was signed by Burke.”

Many see this motion by U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke as more smoke emanating from an ongoing cover-up.  George McCubbin, president of the National Border Patrol Council, told USA Today,  “I think it’s pretty bold of the government to take a position on this, it’s the government trying to cover its backside and minimize the embarrassment over a failed gun investigation. There is no other reason for this.”

Former U.S. Attorney in Florida, Kendall Coffey also read between the lines, he told Fox News, “The government’s already been put on notice that they might be facing a wrongful death action by the family. And you have to wonder if the government’s efforts to deny the family the status of ‘crime victims’ is part of a strategy to avoid legal responsibility for some of the tragic mistakes of Operation Fast and Furious.”

Hopefully, in the end, justice prevails. 

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