A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer who threw a driver to the ground at a crossing from Mexico into Southern California was convicted Wednesday of using unreasonable force and lying on his report, authorities said.
Marcos Valenzuela, 30, of El Centro, was convicted for a 2019 incident that began when a driver got out of a car in a lane at the Calexico West Port of Entry to confront a motorcyclist who had cut in front of his car, the U.S. attorney's office said in a statement.
Citing trial evidence, the statement said Valenzuela ordered the man to return to his car but when he finally reached Valenzuela's booth, Valenzuela pulled the driver from the car, shoved him, wrapped an arm around his chest and neck, threw him to the ground and landed on top of him. He then handcuffed the man, who received minor injuries.
Valenzuela misrepresented the confrontation to other officers and in a report falsely claimed that the driver was aggressive and resisted arrest, the U.S. attorney's office said.
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A jury in San Diego deliberated about 90 minutes before finding Valenzuela guilty of deprivation of rights under color of law and falsifying records in a federal investigation, the U.S. attorney's office said.
He could face up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine when he's sentenced on July 8.
“CBP employees and officers take an oath of office, a solemn pledge,” said Elizabeth Cervantes, special agent in charge of the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility in San Diego. “CBP employees who disregard that oath and instead choose to violate the trust of the citizens they swore to protect will be held accountable."