No Honest Players Among Human Smugglers

Illegal immigrants are subject to pain and death at the hands of their "rescuers" if they don't pay up in full

But to the jury, none of this mattered. Garza's testimony, coupled with the wrenching accounts from Miguel and Elmer, was enough for them to convict Spezzia.

"It was more emotional than most federal criminal trials," says Assistant U.S. Attorney Costa. Miguel and Elmer "told their story, why they came and what happened when they did, and I think most people in the court were moved by that. It's a very human story and a tragic story."

More damning than all the testimony, however, says Costa, were the photographs taken of Elmer after his rescue, undeniable proof of the brutality he suffered.

Immigrant smugglers held Elmer hostage for three days before torturing him with a hammer and iron.
Immigrant smugglers held Elmer hostage for three days before torturing him with a hammer and iron.
Jurors during the trial saw pictures of Elmer's wounds from being beaten by smugglers.
Jurors during the trial saw pictures of Elmer's wounds from being beaten by smugglers.

The jury saw pictures of Elmer sitting in the hotel room wearing a blood-stained shirt. They saw other pictures of his charred forearms and his mangled foot. It was too much. It was enough.

chris.vogel@houstonpress.com

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