TUCSON, Ariz. — A former U.S. Border Patrol agent charged with running over a Guatemalan migrant along the Arizona-Mexico border and then lying about it has pleaded guilty and faces up to a year in prison, according to a deal with prosecutors.
Matthew Bowen, 39, a 10-year veteran agent stationed in Nogales, was scheduled to appear in Tucson federal court on Monday for the first day of his trial. But late last week, his attorney filed a motion saying he would accept a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The plea agreement is dated Aug. 8. but the court on Monday released details about the agreement with prosecutors.
Bowen agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor for violating the rights of Antonin Lopez Aguilar, a 23-year-old migrant from Guatemala.
Bowen acknowledged that he intentionally ran over Lopez Aguilar on Dec. 3, 2017, when, as an agent, he had tried to detain him after entering the U.S. illegally near Nogales.
"During my apprehension of (Antonin Lopez Aguilar), I intentionally struck him with an unreasonable amount of force. My actions when I struck A.L.-A. were not justified and violated his rights protected by the Constitution of the United States," Bowen admitted, according to the document detailing the deal with prosecutors.
As part of the plea deal, Bowen also agreed to resign immediately from the Border Patrol. They had placed him on indefinite suspension without pay since his indictment in June 2018.
A Border Patrol spokesman declined to comment on the plea deal, but confirmed that Bowen submitted his resignation on Aug. 8.
Prosecutors also agreed to dismiss a charge against him for having lied about striking Lopez Aguilar in a report.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 15. Bowen faces up to $100,000 in fines, could spend up to a year in prison, and up to five years of probation.
Bowen's attorney, Sean Chapman, successfully defended another Arizona border agent facing charges in Tucson federal court. Both agents worked together and were stationed in Nogales.
Agent Lonnie Swartz was accused of fatally shooting 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez through the border fence in Nogales in 2012, after a botched smuggling attempt and a rock-throwing incident.
The first jury cleared Swartz of second-degree murder in an April 2018 trial. A second jury acquitted him of manslaughter charges in a retrial in November. A civil case is still making its way through court.
Court records show that Bowen texted Swartz in 2017 following a rock-throwing incident. He called the people throwing rocks "mindless murdering savages."
Text messages cited in court documents show that in the weeks before Dec. 3, Bowen called the migrants “subhuman s--t unworthy of being kindling for a fire” and “tonks,” a derogatory term for border-crossing migrants.
In texting another agent about his dissatisfaction with Border Patrol policies, Bowen said he would “miss certain aspects” of being an agent if he left.
Among the aspects he’d miss: “The chase of hunting down s--tbags with your crew, defeating somebody who thought they were faster than you,” he wrote.
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The plea deal allowed Bowen to avoid a jury trial. He acknowledged that U.S. prosecutors had enough evidence against him to secure a guilty verdict, including testimony from other agents who expressed their dismay over the December 2017 incident.
Court documents detailed that Bowen had prior accusations against him for using excessive force against migrants.
They included instances of him allegedly tackling a migrant after he had stopped running and pulling up a migrant from his handcuffs after he tripped and fell. He was admonished or verbally reprimanded both times by his supervisor.
Contributing: Jeannette Hinkle, Arizona Republic. Follow Rafael Carranza on Twitter: @RafaelCarranza.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Border agent pleads guilty to intentionally running over migrant