Clearwater trucker in deadly smuggling operation to testify next month

James Bradley, 2004 jail booking photo from arrest in Hillsborough County.

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A scheduled detention hearing for a truck driver charged in the deaths of 10 immigrants found inside his sweltering tractor-trailer in San Antonio has been canceled.

Federal court records show the hearing for James Matthew Bradley Jr. that was originally set for Thursday was waived and a new hearing was set for Aug. 23, when Bradley is expected to a give video deposition.

Bradley, 60, of Clearwater, Florida, faces charges of illegally transporting immigrants for financial gain, resulting in death. Authorities allege he drove a trailer full of immigrants from South Texas that was discovered in the parking lot of a Walmart in San Antonio early Sunday morning. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

At least 29 immigrants survived the failed smuggling attempt, according to U.S. officials. Twelve remained hospitalized Wednesday in San Antonio.

The identities of most of the dead were not immediately released. However, one victim, a 19-year-old who had been deported and was trying to get back to his family in the United States, was identified as a Guatemalan national by diplomat Cristy Andrino.

She told The Associated Press that Frank Guisseppe Fuentes immigrated to the U.S. as a child and was onboard the sweltering tractor-trailer in hopes of eventually making his way to family living in Maryland.

Fuentes was deported in March after being convicted of assault and battery by a mob, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said. Fairfax County Schools in Virginia said Fuentes graduated from J.E.B. Stuart High School in 2015.

Fuentes had been protected from deportation for a time under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrival Program, but his protected status expired in June 2016, according to ICE.

Bradley remained jailed Wednesday. Investigators said they believe he is part of a larger organization involved in human smuggling that authorities are trying to identify and dismantle.

Bradley had his commercial driving privileges for a truck driver suspended by Florida three months before Sunday’s deadly smuggling attempt, officials said. And court records show he had been repeatedly cited for violating federal motor carrier safety regulations in Iowa dating back to 1995. At least two of the tickets were for logging more hours than allowed.

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