The U.S. attorney’s office announced Wednesday that the government will not seek the death penalty for James Matthew Bradley Jr., who is charged in the deaths of 10 immigrants in an alleged smuggling operation in July.

Bradley was the driver of a tractor-trailer that became a death trap for 10 immigrants who were among dozens traveling inside the stifling trailer from the U.S. border with Mexico. The immigrants were discovered July 23 when Bradley stopped in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio.

In addition, a federal grand jury charged another man in the case: Pedro Silva Segura, 47, an undocumented immigrant who was arrested in Laredo on an unrelated charge. The indictment against Silva alleges that he participated in the conspiracy by transporting the immigrants and attempting to conceal, harbor, and shield them from detection. Silva currently is in custody and awaiting an appearance in federal court in San Antonio.

A seven-count superseding indictment charges Bradley and Silva with one count of conspiracy to transport and harbor undocumented immigrants for financial gain resulting in death; one count of conspiracy to transport and harbor undocumented people for financial gain resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy; and two counts of transporting undocumented immigrants resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Bradley also is charged with transporting undocumented immigrants resulting in death and transporting them resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy. In addition, he faces one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Bradley, 60, still faces up to life imprisonment upon conviction, and Silva could face life imprisonment or the death penalty if convicted.

No information was given about Silva’s role in the alleged conspiracy to smuggle dozens of people in the tractor-trailer. The immigrants who survived estimated that the trailer contained between 70 and 200 people during the journey from the border to San Antonio, according to court records. At the scene, authorities found a .38-caliber pistol inside the trailer allegedly belonging to Bradley. Eight immigrants were found dead inside the trailer, and two died after authorities were called to the scene.

The immigrants, hailing from Mexico and Guatemala, paid smugglers thousands of dollars and traveled from Laredo to San Antonio in the sweltering trailer, which did not have a functioning air-conditioning unit. Although survivors said they yelled for help and banged on the truck’s inner walls, Bradley told authorities he did not discover his cargo until he took a bathroom break at Walmart and heard banging inside the truck.

A memorial has been made underneath a shade tree alongside the Wal-Mart parking lot where the victims were discovered.
A memorial underneath a tree in the Walmart parking lot is set up where the victims were discovered. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

After survivors were treated in hospitals for trauma and heat related injuries, 22 people were placed in the custody of federal authorities to serve as material witnesses in the case. On Sept. 5, the immigrants were handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

No trial date has been scheduled. 

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Rocío Guenther

Rocío Guenther worked as a bilingual reporter and editorial assistant for the Rivard Report from June 2016 to October 2017. She is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and holds a bachelor's in English...