Top Juarez cartel figure expected to enter plea

Published April 5, 2012 9:09PM (EDT)

McALLEN, Texas (AP) — A top Juarez cartel figure suspected of masterminding the slaying of a U.S. consulate employee in Mexico was to enter a plea Thursday in a U.S. court that would garner a life sentence, court records indicate.

Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez was to appear before a federal judge Thursday afternoon in El Paso in a case that charged 35 people tied to a transnational gang with conspiracy, racketeering and murder. The judge's schedule said Acosta was to appear for a plea and sentence.

Acosta allegedly headed La Linea, the Juarez cartel's enforcement arm. Mexican authorities say the former police officer admitted to ordering 1,500 killings.

A copy of the proposed deal signed by Acosta indicated he would plead guilty to 11 counts including racketeering, conspiracy to distribute and possess drugs, and murder. The document specifies that the three murder-related charges carry a mandatory life sentence. Acosta's attorney did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The agreement is not final until it is accepted by the judge.

Acosta, nicknamed Diego, was one of 10 people named in the indictment as participating in the killings of Leslie Ann Enriquez, an employee at the U.S. consulate in Juarez; her husband, Arthur Redelfs; and Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of another consulate employee. On March 13, 2010, Enriquez and Redelfs left the same children's party as Salcido. Both were driving white SUVs that were pursued separately by gunmen and riddled with bullets.

When Mexican police arrested Acosta last year, President Felipe Calderon said through his Twitter account that it was "the biggest blow" to organized crime in the violence-plagued border city of Ciudad Juarez.

By Salon Staff

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