A state jury in Las Cruces, New Mexico, found Fernando Puga not guilty of attempting to murder Border Patrol Agent Lorenzo Hernandez. They also found him not guilty on the charge of aggravated assault. However, Puga now faces federal charges in Texas related to the alleged assault on a Border Patrol agent.
Puga stood trial for charges related to the alleged kidnapping, assault, and attempted murder of Border Patrol Agent Hernandez in June 2017. On April 17, the New Mexico jury found him not guilty on state charges of attempted murder, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery causing great bodily harm, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Following the not guilty verdict, Deputy District Attorney David Sewell issued the following statement published in a report from CBS4News’ Justin Kree.
We strongly believe that there was enough overwhelming evidence to convict, however, the jury decided otherwise. We feel that perhaps the jury was convinced that they were not able to review all of the evidence, as some of the evidence is held by the Federal Agency’s ongoing investigation.
Puga’s troubles with the law are not over, however. KVIA ABC7 reported that the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas filed federal charges for the alleged assault of a Border Patrol agent. The U.S. District Court in El Paso issued an arrest warrant and Puga found himself behind bars again.
During closing arguments, Sewell told the jury that Puga “hacked him [Hernandez], and hacked him, and hacked him, tens of times.”
Defense attorney Todd Holmes told the jury that Puga’s DNA was not on the machete and that the federal government was withholding evidence, including video of Puga’s initial interview with an FBI agent, due to an ongoing federal investigation. The defense attorney also said there was no photo of Hernandez’s injuries, Kree reported.
Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Department Detective Ivan Zarate testified during the trial that the FBI got involved in the case because of possible connections to the fact that Hernandez is a Border Patrol agent. He said the agency withheld more than 100 pieces of evidence tied to the attack, Las Cruces Sun News reported. “The case is still open with the FBI; therefore, it is very difficult to get the evidence,” the detective explained in response to questions from the defense attorney.
Puga’s co-defendant, Sergio Ivan Venegas-Quiñonez, pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Agent Hernandez, Breitbart News reported. The court dismissed aggravated battery and assault charges as part of a plea agreement. The court also dismissed a second criminal case against the man.
Under New Mexico sentencing guidelines, Venegas-Quiñonez faces up to nine years in state prison for the second-degree felony conviction of attempted murder. Prosecutor Sewell is recommending a sentence of seven years, the local newspaper reported. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 2, 2019.
Following the not-guilty verdict, New Mexico prosecutors told KVIA ABC7 that today is “a horrible day that Lorenzo Hernandez and his family will never forget. His body is still filled with scars. His mind is still filled with scars.”