The Juarez cartel leader who admitted to ordering hits on more than 1,500 people, including a U.S. consulate employee, received a life sentence in federal court in El Paso Thursday.
Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, who in 2008 became the head of La Linea, the Juarez cartel’s enforcement arm, was extradited to the U.S. three weeks ago to face federal charges including murder, racketeering, and conspiracy, the Associated Press reported. Mexican federal police had captured him in a raid in July.
In March 2010, Leslie Ann Enriquez, an employee at the U.S. consulate in Juarez; her husband, Arthur Redelfs; and Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of another consulate employee, were leaving a child’s birthday party in two white SUVs when a group of gunman chased them down and peppered the vehicles with bullets.
“As the leader of La Linea’s enforcement wing, Mr. Acosta-Hernandez directed a reign of terror,” Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said in a prepared statement. “Today’s guilty plea and sentence are a significant step in our effort to bring to justice those responsible for the consulate murders.”
Michele Leonhart, chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, dubbed Acosta “a cold-blooded murderer with no respect for human life or the rule of law.”
As part of the plea deal, “El Diego,” as Acosta is known, also admitted to ordering the massacre of sixteen people at a birthday party Villas de Salvarcar in January 2010 and a car bombing in downtown Juarez that July.
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone sentenced Acosta to “seven concurrent life terms, three additional consecutive life terms, and 20 years in federal prison,” the AP reported. But Cardone made it clear during the sentencing that she wished she could have done more: “This is one of the most heinous and violent and callous crimes I have ever seen,” Cardone told Acosta, according to the El Paso Times. “I think it’s a real tragedy all that has happened. This court believes in many ways that life is not enough for all the lives you have taken.”