Saturday, September 27, 2008

Several Mexican Officers Charged with Homicide


Five Mexican police officers have been charged with homicide and other counts for the death of an Oregon man in a Mexican jail cell last August.

Regional Deputy Attorney General Omar Barajas says the five municipal officers were charged Wednesday with homicide and abuse of power. A sixth officer, the commander of the jail, was released after investigators determined he was not involved.

Sam Botner, 38, of Yoncalla, Ore, was arrested on Aug. 27 while vacationing in the resort of San Jose del Cabo at the southern tip of Mexico's Baja Peninsula.

San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas are about 20 miles apart but fall under the same "municipio," or municipal jurisdiction.

Prosecutors say a surveillance video shows officers beating Botner, who was vacationing there with his wife Kym after he returned from a commercial fishing trip in Alaska.

An autopsy found traces of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine in his system. His wife said he resisted arrest but prosecutors said police still have a duty to protect people in custody.

Police spokesman Jorge Castaneda said the five could face 10 years or more in jail.

Under remnants of the old Napoleonic Code there is no presumption of innocence in Mexico or many other Latin American countries, and defendants must prove their innocence.

Castaneda said a judge has 72 hours to decide the fate of the officers charged, although the process can take longer.

Lawyers will submit written briefs, and a judge likely will decide Monday or Tuesday.

Jury trials are relatively rare in Mexico.

Castaneda said an autopsy concluded that Botner died of asphyxiation but prosecutors say he was beaten in jail.

His wife, Kym said that police were called after her husband got into an argument with a man at a resort. She said she was told the morning after her husband's arrest that he had died.

"I think the officers need to go to prison but I forgive them as people," Botner's brother, Paul, told The Oregonian. "I have no hatred for them."

Officer Abram Carabajal Under Investigation for Fixing Woman's Ticket in Exchange for Sex


A recently retired California Highway Patrol officer under investigation for allegedly fixing a woman's ticket in exchange for sex came under suspicion more than a year ago when questions arose about testimony he gave in traffic court, a CHP captain said.

“We were suspicious of a couple cases where it seemed like he didn't remember what happened on a (traffic) stop,” Capt. David Webb said.

The cases involved women who were ticketed, Webb said yesterday, and the officer, Abram Carabajal, was “heavily disciplined.” Webb said policy requires officers to keep careful notes about citations. He declined to provide more details.

The CHP is investigating whether Carabajal, 51, gave false testimony that resulted in the dismissal of a woman's speeding ticket in traffic court. CHP investigators observed Carabajal going to an Oceanside hotel with the woman, Shirin Zarrindej of Encino, shortly after the hearing July 1, search-warrant affidavits say.

Carabajal, who worked in the Oceanside CHP office, retired the next day after more than 26 years on the force.

In an interview yesterday, Zarrindej, 48, denied having sex with Carabajal at the hotel and that “he never told me he was going to fix any ticket.”

Zarrindej said she talked with Carabajal 50 to 60 times on the phone after he cited her on suspicion of speeding March 12 on Interstate 5, and that they became friends.

Carabajal reserved a hotel room for her on the day of her hearing because it was her birthday, Zarrindej said. After about an hour with her in the room, which Zarrindej said she paid for, Carabajal left to return to court. He planned to take her out to a birthday dinner later that day before going home to his wife, she said.

Webb said the CHP began investigating in June, after Zarrindej called the Oceanside CHP office asking to speak with Carabajal. The case has been turned over to the District Attorney's Office.

Zarrindej was investigated on bribery allegations in 1998 after she was arrested on suspicion of prostitution, Orange County court records show. About two months after her arrest, she was accused of offering $2,000 to a sheriff's deputy if he would make the case go away, said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Court records show that the bribery charge was dismissed, and Zarrindej pleaded guilty to solicitation to commit a crime. She was sentenced to 60 days in jail and three years' probation.

Zarrindej acknowledged calling the deputy and making the offer, but said she quickly called back and withdrew it.

Carabajal's attorney, William Wolfe, declined to provide the officer's version of what happened.