A Mexican man who had been accused of transporting illegal immigrants after a rollover crash killed nine people faces new charges that could bring the death penalty.
A federal grand jury in Phoenix indicted Brian Guzman Ochoa, 32, on four new counts Tuesday including transportation of illegal aliens resulting in death. The possible sentences on that charge are the death penalty or life in prison.
On Aug. 7, a sport utility vehicle heading north veered off a highway about 15 miles south of Florence, slammed into the far bank of a dry wash and flipped onto its roof. Nine people died at the scene.
A criminal complaint citing survivors identified Guzman as the driver. He was among 10 people in the SUV hospitalized for injuries. One remains hospitalized, U.S. attorney's office spokeswoman Sandy Raynor said Wednesday.
The indictment also charges Guzman, of Hermosillo, Mexico, with transportation of illegal aliens, bringing in illegal aliens and re-entry after deportation.
Guzman is in federal custody, and his arraignment is pending, Raynor said.
Guzman's attorney, Jeffrey Williams, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Raynor said the indictment was based on the criminal complaint that was filed shortly after the crash and on statements made by material witnesses.
Two survivors identified Guzman and a man killed in the crash as the guides who took them from Agua Prieta, Mexico, into the United States. Both witnesses said Guzman and the other alleged guide had been smoking marijuana before they entered the SUV.
Guzman could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of transportation of illegal aliens.
The maximum penalty for bringing in illegal aliens increases with multiple charges, so Guzman could face from three to 15 years.
And he could be sentenced to two years in prison if convicted of the re-entry charge.
Federal prosecutors have come down hard in other cases involving fatal crashes of smuggling vehicles. A Mexican man who was driving during a June 2006 crash near Yuma that killed 10 illegal immigrants is serving a life sentence.