Prosecutors release evidence in Border Patrol case

SAN DIEGO - Federal prosecutors have released a surveillance video that was used in a case against a Border Patrol agent who was acquitted last month by a jury of a charge of choking a migrant.

A judge on Thursday ordered the U.S. Attorney's office to release the footage in response to a petition by news organizations, including The Associated Press.

In the video, Border Patrol agent Luis Fonseca is seen kneeing Adolfo Ceja in the thigh at a station in Imperial Beach in 2011, shortly after his arrest on suspicion of entering the country illegally. Ceja then kneels down. Fonseca hovers over him, pushing down on Ceja with Fonseca's back facing the camera.

The migrant collapses. His body shakes. He gets back up seconds later.

Fonseca's attorney Stuart Adams argued during the trial that his client adhered to his training during the incident, and jurors were likely persuaded by a doctor of emergency medicine whose testimony challenged that the migrant fell unconscious, suggesting instead that he was faking.

The swift acquittal on one count of deprivation of rights under color of law comes as U.S. border authorities are under growing scrutiny for its rules on use of force. The Department of Homeland Security ordered a review of its policies and practices last year and the department's inspector general is conducting its own study. Chief patrol agents were summoned to Washington, D.C., late last year to review policies.

Fonseca will remain on leave while a national disciplinary review board of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection determines whether the agent violated any of its policies and the case warrants disciplinary action, according to a statement issued by the deputy chief patrol agent of the San Diego sector, Rodney Scott.

Fonseca's attorney could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.

On Friday, Scott issued the following statement:

"The U.S. Border Patrol, and all of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is firmly committed to fair treatment of all individuals in every aspect of our mission.

In July of 2011, an illegal alien made an allegation that he had been abused by a CBP Border Patrol agent subsequent to an arrest.

As with all allegations, we immediately notified the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General to facilitate an independent investigation. In these types of cases there are two objectives; the identification and prosecution of any criminal misconduct and an administrative review to determine if the agent's actions were consistent with CBP policies. The criminal process concluded last month with the acquittal of Mr. Fonseca by a jury in Federal Court.

All evidence associated with this case is now being provided to a national level CBP disciplinary review board to determine if any policy violation occurred and if disciplinary action is warranted.

Until a final determination is made, Mr. Fonseca will remain in an administrative status without law enforcement authority.

To ensure the integrity of this process, we will not make any specific comments about the evidence at this time."

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