Life sentence for smuggler who let human cargo die

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A federal jury in Houston sentenced a trucker to life in prison without parole after finding him guilty of what has been called the deadliest human smuggling attempt in U.S. history. Jurors deliberated several days before sentencing Tyrone Mapletoft Williams Jr., 36, of Schenectady, N.Y., to life without parole Jan. 18.

The jury convicted him in December on 19 counts of transporting and smuggling illegal aliens in his tractor-trailer, resulting in their deaths. The fatalities occurred when he abandoned his reefer trailer, stuffed with dozens of human beings, in broiling heat near Victoria, Texas, in May 2003. Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Rodriguez told jurors Williams had ignored the din of “begging, cajoling, banging, scratching, clawing” from inside the sweltering trailer.

The lengthy trial involves multiple charges, multiple convictions and multiple sentences, and some of those sentences have yet to be determined. Additional sentences to be imposed by the judge could include lengthy prison terms and millions in fines, but not the death penalty. U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal set Aug. 23 as the date for a sentencing hearing on the remaining convictions. In the meantime, Williams will remain in federal custody.