PHOENIX (Reuters) – Two Border Patrol agents were indicted on Thursday on charges of forcing accused drug smugglers to eat marijuana and flee barefoot and nearly naked into the chilly Arizona desert.
Dario Castillo, 23, and Ramon Zuniga, 29, were charged with five civil rights violations by a federal grand jury in Tucson stemming from the November 2008 incident in Arizona, prosecutors said.
Castillo is also charged with witness tampering.
A border patrol spokesman said Castillo and Zuniga had been placed on administrative leave but declined further comment.
The indictment charges that on the night in question, the two border patrol agents apprehended four men on suspicion of taking part in a marijuana smuggling operation from Mexico.
They forced the suspects to eat the drug and strip off their outer clothes, socks and shoes, which were set on fire, the indictment said.
The men were then told to flee into the desert night, where temperatures were about 40 degrees, it added.
Prosecutors said the actions deprived the four men of their civil rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
The two agents face up to 10 years in prison if convicted on the civil rights charges. Castillo could receive up to 20 years in prison on the tampering count.
(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Johnston)
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