Man charged in fatal ICE ambush

December 22, 2011

El Paso Times on December 22, 2011 released the following:

“By Diana Washington Valdez \ El Paso Times

A man accused of taking part in the Feb. 11 slaying of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent that also left a second ICE agent wounded was charged on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., after Mexico extradited him to the United States.

Julian “Piolin” Zapata Espinoza faces charges for his alleged role in the murder of ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata of Brownsville, and the attempted murder of ICE Special Agent Victor Avila of El Paso.

“The extradition and charges filed against Zapata Espinoza is an important step in bringing Jaime and Victor’s alleged shooters to justice,” ICE Director John Morton said. “All of us at ICE are encouraged by today’s action and appreciate the unwavering work and support of all our law enforcement partners in this case.”

“The indictment unsealed today and the successful extradition of ‘Piolin’ to the United States reflect the Justice Department’s vigorous and determined efforts to seek justice for Agents Zapata and Avila,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer. “We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners in Mexico to hold violent criminals accountable.”

On April 19, a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned a four-count indictment against Zapata Espinoza, charging him with one count of murder of an officer or employee of the United States, for the murder of Jaime Zapata; one count of attempted murder of an officer or employee of the United States; and one count of attempted murder of an internationally protected person, both for the attempted murder of Avila; and one count of using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence causing death.

Zapata Espinoza, who is being held without bond, appeared in U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth’s court and pleaded not guilty. His next appearance in court is scheduled for Jan. 25.

In a statement, the Mexican National Defense Secretariat said Mexican soldiers captured Zapata Espinoza on Feb. 23, along with other alleged members of the Zetas drug cartel.

Military officials said Zapata Espinoza “stated he was in charge of the group of gunmen that shot the U.S. agent, (and that) he said that this event was a mistake because they thought that the people in the (U.S. agents’) vehicle were members of an antagonistic (rival) group.”

U.S. officials said the two U.S. agents were traveling from a meeting in San Luis Potosi to Mexico City the day they were ambushed by a group of armed men.

Zapata, who began his law enforcement career with the Border Patrol, was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.

Avila, the ICE agent who was shot twice in the leg, recovered from his wounds.

One of the charges is that Zapata Espinoza participated in the attempted murder of an “internationally protected person,” according to the indictment against him.

“He was apparently a U.S. federal agent that pursuant to international law had special protection,” said Douglas C. McNabb, a lawyer and senior principal with McNabb Associates PC, a global criminal defense firm with a website at

Sheldon Snook, a deputy court clerk in the U.S. District Court of Washington, D.C., said the U.S. Attorneys Manual defines “internationally protected persons” based on U.S. legislation and United Nations conventions, including the Vienna Convention.

Such persons can include heads of state, diplomats and others that in this case the U.S. State Department has determined holds the status.”


Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at or at one of the offices listed above.

International Extradition of Houston Day Care Worker Raises Serious Legal Questions

March 7, 2011

Jessica Rene Tata, a U.S. citizen wanted for her alleged role in a Houston day care fire, has yet to be added to the INTERPOL Red Notice fugitive list, despite media reports to the contrary. Tata has allegedly fled the United States and is thought to be in Nigeria. As of this afternoon, INTERPOL has still not published a Red Notice for Tata.

On February 24, a fire in a Houston day care owned and operated by Tata, claimed the lives of four children and left three survivors. Allegedly, Tata was not on the premises when the fire began.

The issue arises whether the Houston District Attorney’s Office has over-charged the case. Tata was originally charged with reckless injury to a child on Monday, February 28 and an arrest warrant was issued. The following day, Tata was additionally charged with six counts of reckless injury to a child and three counts of abandoning a child under the age of 15. On Wednesday, the Southern District of Texas charged Tata with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Last Thursday, a grand jury indicted Tata on four counts of manslaughter. The charges against Tata have now risen to 15 counts.

It seems the Houston DA’s office is scrambling to bring charges against Tata, first for her arrest, and subsequently thereafter. Significantly, the original charges against Tata are not extraditable offenses under the U.S. and Nigerian extradition treaty, which most likely explains the grand jury indictment for manslaughter. Manslaughter is an extraditable offense under the treaty, but why did it take the Houston DA’s office three different sets of charges to eventually charge Tata with an extraditable offense? Moreover, only when the U.S. and Nigerian extradition treaty and extraditable offenses were brought to the attention of the Houston DA’s office by multiple outside sources, did the manslaughter charges arise. It appears Tata has been indicted with manslaughter for extradition purposes, not because the Houston DA’s office believes manslaughter is the proper charge in the case.

The Houston DA’s office needs to realize international extradition proceedings will most likely take time. If Tata agrees to extradition, she may be back in the U.S. within a month or so. However, if she fights the extradition request, she will be entitled to a hearing in Nigeria that will require the U.S. government to show probable cause for the charges underlying her extradition. This could be a serious issue for the Houston DA’s office due to the problems discussed above.

In addition to the onslaught of charges, the U.S. Marshals Service added Tata to the list of 15 Most Wanted last Friday. The U.S. Marshals have identified Tata as “armed and dangerous,” but on what grounds? Nothing in the case indicates Tata is in fact armed and dangerous. This designation has serious implications for Tata. For example, law enforcement authorities may exceed what is necessary for her arrest if they believe she is armed and dangerous.

The allegations against Tata are indeed serious. However, state and federal law enforcement authorities have to play by the rules and follow state and international extradition laws. Over-charging an individual and manipulating the system compromises the integrity of the entire U.S. judicial process, and law enforcement authorities need to keep that in mind.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at or at one of the offices listed above.

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Julian Assange – Can U.S. Get Him While His Case Is On Appeal?

February 23, 2011

Douglas McNabb discusses the possibility of the U.S. seeking Mr. Assange’s extradition while the case is on appeal in the British Courts.

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Julian Assange – U.S. International Extradition and Alternatives to Extradition

February 10, 2011

Federal Attorney Douglas McNabb addresses U.S. International Extradition, and alternatives to extradition, that Julian Assange may face if indicted by the U.S. Government.

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