A man accused of trying to flee from Border Patrol agents before crashing a vehicle packed with illegal immigrants, killing nine, was accused of leading authorities on a similarly dangerous chase last year, federal court records show.
After that chase, Adan Pineda Doval, 20, was sentenced on a misdemeanor charge, according to the records.
Pineda is in federal custody on a charge of felony transportation of illegal aliens for Monday's crash more than 30 miles north of Yuma, which also injured a dozen immigrants.
Federal officials said he was trying to avoid a Border Patrol checkpoint and led agents on a chase before trying to make a U-turn and overturning the Chevrolet Suburban he was driving.
Pineda led agents on a similar pursuit north of Yuma in June 2005, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Yuma.
"During the pursuit the defendant drove erratically, swerving toward (Arizona Department of Public Safety) officers and Border Patrol agents, putting the lives of the agents and his passengers in danger," federal officials alleged in a statement included with the 2005 complaint against Pineda.
Pineda had entered the U.S. illegally near Andrade, Calif., and was charged with illegal entry. The federal statement listed several more serious crimes, including aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer and endangerment, but he was sentenced to six months in a federal facility on the misdemeanor entry count less than a week after the crash.
Pineda apparently received a plea deal that federal prosecutors call a "flip-flop" — used because there are so many smuggling cases, said Ann Harwood, a spokeswoman for the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office.
In a flip-flop, normally offered to smugglers who didn't endanger those they were smuggling, the defendant is charged with a felony and a misdemeanor but is allowed to plead guilty only to the lesser charge.
Harwood told The Sun of Yuma that without knowing the evidence against Pineda in the first case she could not say whether he should have been prosecuted on more serious charges.
Pineda is charged only with one felony in Monday's incident but may face further counts, federal officials said.