The driver of a semitrailer packed with at least 39 immigrants, 10 of whom died, pleaded guilty Monday to making the deadly smuggling run. James Matthew Bradley Jr., 61, pleaded Monday in federal court in San Antonio to one conspiracy count and a count of transporting the immigrants resulting in death, the AP reports. Authorities say at least 39 immigrants, most of them Mexicans, were packed into the sweltering trailer found by San Antonio police last July in a Walmart parking lot, though court records show that surviving immigrants estimated between 70 and 200 people were carried in the trailer during the transport. The truck's refrigeration system wasn't working, and investigators say passengers had difficulty breathing as temperatures climbed. Temperatures in San Antonio topped 101 degrees that day.
Bradley initially had denied knowing anyone was in the trailer, telling investigators it had been sold and he was transporting it for his boss from Iowa to Brownsville, Texas. But he said he'd driven to Laredo, Texas, and stopped twice there before driving back to San Antonio, in the opposite direction from Brownsville. The Clearwater, Fla., man faces up to life in prison when sentenced on Jan. 22; he could have faced the death penalty had he gone to trial. Co-defendant Pedro Silva Segura, 47, still faces two conspiracy counts, as well as two counts of transporting undocumented immigrants resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy. No trial date has been set. "Today's admission of guilt by Mr. Bradley helps to close the door on one of the conspirators responsible for causing the tragic loss of life," says a Homeland Security Investigations special agent.