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Thirteen Would-Be Migrants Held In Detention For Smuggling Trial

Ryan E. Poppe
Michael McCrum speaking to journalists in the 2014 case against former Governor Rick Perry.

Thirteen people have been charged as material witnesses in the tragic smuggling case that resulted in 10 heat deaths. 

According to their lawyer, San Antonio-based Michael McCrum, the 13  would-be migrants charged as material witnesses were inside the sweltering truck driven by James Matthew Bradley Jr. The truck was discovered early Sunday morning by police.

He says his clients will be sent to area detention centers, so they can assist the U.S. prosecutors'  office. 

"And I was horrified to discover that you put a person in a jail cell, restrict their liberty, when all you want them for is to be a witness," says McCrum on the federal practice of placing hard-to-find witnesses into federal custody.

McCrum -- himself a former federal prosecutor -- says he understands why prosecutors do it. Since his clients are all foreign-born, he knows they likely would be deported if not held. 

That doesn't change the fact that they are victims of Bradley, he says, and he worries they could be victims again in the heightened political environment the case is unfolding in.

"Because of that, I don't want the welfare of these human beings to be played with just to advance a political agenda."

In 32 years, this is the largest number of clients McCrum has been assigned in a single case. He says he will seek relief for his clients, saying it is only right to give those that want them visas if they are helping the prosecution.

McCrum is no stranger to high-profile cases. He was a federal prosecutor in San Antonio for 11 years, prosecuting several large drug cases. He was also the special prosecutor assigned to the 2014 felony abuse-of-power case against former Governor Rick Perry. Perry was indicted in  Travis County, but the charges were later thrown out.