A Maricopa County Superior Court judge sentenced a 23-year-old illegal immigrant Tuesday to three years of probation for his conviction on a human smuggling charge.
Javier Ruiz-Lopez was considered the smuggler in the first case in Maricopa County in which illegal border crossers were charged with conspiracy to smuggle.
Ruiz-Lopez was behind the wheel of a van filled with illegal immigrants in a remote part of the county March 2 when they were arrested.
Ruiz-Lopez told a grand jury that he wasn’t a smuggler, but he got a discount on crossing the border from a “coyote” for driving.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas have been criticized by immigrant advocates for arresting and charging border crossers with conspiracy under a year old anti-coyote law.
Both officials said they were disappointed by the sentence. “Coyotes should do some prison time,” Thomas said.
So far, 232 people have been charged with conspiracy, many of them taking plea bargains and being deported.
Ruiz-Lopez’s codefendants, Gustavo Unbalejo Gomez, 29, and Antonio Hernandez Lopez, 21, were the first to go to trial under the conspiracy charges, which Judge Thomas O’Toole threw out after finding that the state failed to prove its case. A jury then convicted Ruiz-Lopez of his lone charge.