Federal judge partially vacates convictions of Mexican hitmen who killed ICE agent in 2011

Two Mexican cartel assassins who slaughtered an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent in cold blood just got a lucky break from the U.S. federal court system.

The Los Zetas killers who killed Special Agent Jaime Zapata had their murder convictions partially vacated and will now get a limited resentencing, the Washington Examiner reported Sunday. The two gang members are currently serving life in prison for the slaughter of Zapata in Mexico in 2011.

“We’re going to continue to fight this and hopefully we’re going to right this wrong,” Zapata’s partner, ICE agent, Victor Avila told Fox News.

Judge partially vacates convictions

The hitmen, Garcia Sota, 39, and Quezada Pina, 32, were convicted on four counts in 2017 and sentenced to life in prison for the killing. But Zapata’s former partner and family are shocked and outraged after the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered their convictions for murder and attempted murder partially vacated on a technicality, Fox News reported.

The assassins are already serving life terms on a third count of using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence causing death, Fox News reported. Their appeal to have that count overturned was rejected.

“I applaud today’s verdict and hope that it provides some measure of solace to the victims and their families,” said Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan in 2017, when the original convictions were secured.

Zapata, of Brownsville, Texas, was driving through San Luis Potosí, Mexico with Avila when the two were ambushed by Los Zetas killers. The Los Zetas cartel members were trying to steal vehicles, according to The Monitor of McAllen, Texas. Zapata died, and Avila was injured in the attack, which left 90 shell casings for investigators to ultimately recover.

Devastating decision

The court’s recent ruling was a massive disappointment for Zapata’s former partner and family, who are still searching for closure nine years after Zapata’s death.

The Zapatas have accused the federal government and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) in particular of failing to seize the assassins’ murder weapons, which had allegedly been bought in Texas, before their son was killed.

“I feel that I owe my son justice, and I still haven’t gotten it,” his mother Mary said in 2012.

Zapata’s partner, Avila, told Fox News on Monday that he was “devastated” and vowed to fight the case all the way to the Supreme Court. He worried that the decision would send the message to gang members that it’s open season on America’s brave ICE agents.

“It’s incredible to us,” Avila said. “The Zapata family and I are devastated by this decision of the D.C. appellate court.”

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