Unjust Conviction: Gary Brugman, Former Border Patrol Agent
Gary Brugman is a US Coast Guard Veteran who served honorably for 8 years, 1990- 1998. When he got out, he joined the US Border Patrol to continue his service to the country. He loves America. But the country he loves turned on him as he served at the border, and sent him to prison for two years for “violating the civil rights” of an illegal alien.
Eagle Pass, Texas, January 14, 2001
“We chased a group of about 15 illegal aliens. I ran after them for a mile and a half the whole time yelling for them to stop in Spanish. We chased them through an orchard and a trainee agent with only 4 days out in the field caught them.
He had them in a semi-circle and was telling them to sit down, some were standing some were sitting, but two of them behind his back were squatting and refused to sit down, and could have posed a threat to the Border Patrol agent trainee trying to watch them all. So I followed my training, and using my leg as an extension of my arm, I covered my weapon and pushed them down so that they would sit. Then we transported them and thought it was over. It wasn’t.”
A few weeks later, Gary Brugman and other BP agents responded to assist other agents with a group of seven illegals. Only this time they were drug smugglers, and split up immediately when the agents approached. Gary chased several and five were apprehended. The camera operator at the station spotted the last two of them hiding and guided Agent Brugman to their location. As he approached them in the tall grass filled with early morning dew and fog, they saw him and began to run. After a fast 50 yard dash, they came to a barb wire fence. The first smuggler dove in between the strands of barb wire like Superman. The second smuggler hit the fence and flipped over. The agent who was at a “full speed run” used his momentum and body armor to do the same and flip over the fence. One smuggler got up and ran, as the second was getting up Agent Brugman got him by his legs and the struggle to get on their feet was on, that’s when Agent Brugman saw “his boots and the stars in the same field of vision.”
The drug smuggler body slammed the agent to the ground, then jumped on top of him, put his hands around his throat and began choking him. He then pinned the agent’s right hand to the ground and continued choking him with one hand. With his right hand pinned down and the smuggler trying to choke him, the agent could not even draw his weapon because he feared if he did he might get it taken away – because he was losing the fight. Gary thought he might die, so he asked God for help. He was finally able to get his hand free and hit the smuggler on the side of the head. He then rolled over on the smuggler and that’s when he felt the subject grabbing at things on his gun belt. Agent Brugman decided it was time for it to stop and with a closed fist, punched the smuggler three times in the face, breaking his nose.
That drug smuggler received 57 months in federal prison. But it wasn’t the last Gary would hear from the man who tried to kill him.
In March of 2001, Gary went to the range to complete his required qualification. When he returned to the office, he was placed on desk duty, his weapon taken. He had no idea why until the day he was charged with violating the civil rights of the first illegal alien who was pushed down with his foot. That first man saw a sign that told the illegals to “see something say something.”
The trial transcript reads that Miguel Angel Saldana Jimenez, the illegal that Gary pushed down, told the court that he had no intention of running, and that the patrol agent (Gary) kicked him. But upon cross-examination, there was no evidence of any injuries, just a vague mention of minor pain for three days, and Jimenez couldn’t answer a straight question. He even admitted that the agent did NOT punch him at all. In court, Gary was asked to stand up. The illegal alien was asked if that was the man that kicked him. His reply: “I don’t know. I never saw his face.” He couldn’t identify that Agent Brugman had done anything to him.
In the prosecutor’s penchant to destroy a Border Patrol agent by accusations of malicious intent, they called the drug smuggler – the one who tried to kill Brugman – to the witness stand.
Now why would the prosecution bring a criminal, a narcotics smuggler, in to testify against the defendant on a totally different situation? He was not a credible witness in any sense of the word, as he was serving a 5 year prison sentence because Agent Brugman put him there. He had absolutely nothing to do with the case agent Brugman was being charged with. The U.S. Attorney’s Office got him out of prison on a writ to testify against the man that put him there.
Gary told us the courtroom was tense with the man who tried to kill him staring at him for 4 solid hours. Gary stared back. You probably could have cut the air with a knife.
During the trial, when Brugman happened to be in the bathroom at the same time as one of the prosecutors, Brent Alan Gray, a Civil Rights Trial Lawyer they brought in from Washington, DC, Gary was told by the lawyer that he was “going to jail, because he had a $50M budget to assure it, it’s just a matter of how long he’s going to prison for.”
That statement by the lawyer speaks of far more ‘malicious intent’ against an American citizen than an agent who made an illegal noncitizen sit down.
All in all, Gary Brugman has lost 20 years of his life from the conviction that destroyed his ability to do what he loves: protect America. He told us it’s been like a “disability” and has caused him great hardship. Gary’s appeal was denied in 2002 because the court felt his intent was “malicious.” He went to prison in 2004 to 2006 on a two year sentence.
Since getting out of prison, Gary has worked hard to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration & Management. His attorney, Lt Col Jeffrey Addicott from the Warrior Defense Project at St Mary’s University, is working to obtain a pardon from President Trump. We wish him the best.
Featured photo: former Border Patrol agent Gary Brugman- provided