SAN DIEGO, CA (AP) — A notorious Mexican human smuggler who hit a U.S. Border Patrol agent in the face with a rock two years ago after a foiled smuggling attempt in Southern California was sentenced Monday to more than eight years in prison.
Agents spotted Martel Valencia-Cortez as he smuggled 14 people through rocky terrain in the mountains of eastern San Diego County in November 2015.
As agents moved in, Valencia-Cortez ran to higher ground. He hurled a softball-sized rock, striking an agent in the face, the U.S. Border Patrol said.
Valencia-Cortez ran back across the U.S.-Mexico border and escaped but turned himself in to authorities six months later at the San Ysidro border crossing that connects San Diego to Tijuana.
The agent was disoriented and thought he would pass out. He received treatment for cuts and bruises, according to court documents and trial testimony.
Valencia-Cortez, 39, was convicted in May of assault on a federal officer and three counts of human smuggling for financial gain.
A federal judge handed down a sentence Monday of eight years and three months in prison, the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper reported.
During his time as a fugitive, Border Patrol officials called Valencia-Cortez one of San Diego’s most dangerous human smugglers.
He was known for assaulting agents, threatening and intimidating people he smuggled, and driving the wrong way on streets and freeways to evade arrest, officials said.
Less than two months before the rock assault, Valencia-Cortez was deported to Mexico after serving a sentence of nearly three years in prison for human smuggling.