SAN DIEGO: Boat captain has entered a not guilty plea to a grand jury indictment


A federal grand jury has indicted the captain of the boat that broke apart on rocks off the coast of Point Loma during an alleged human smuggling operation, which resulted in the deaths of three persons.

Before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Michael Berg, Antonio Hurtado, 39, pled not guilty to all charges.

On July 9, he will return to court to arrange a trial date.

In the May 2 incident, Hurtado was also charged with attempting to smuggle in twenty illegal aliens and one count of assault on a federal officer.

According to court records, some of the 30 undocumented immigrants have made bond and are allowed to remain in the United States because they are material witnesses.

Hurtado, a U.S. citizen, remains in the Metropolitan Correctional Center without bail.

According to court filings, when 21 passengers were given five pictures and one picture of Hurtado, they recognized him as the person who piloted the vessel from Mexico into U.S. territorial waters.

Per the public records, all of the passengers were believed to be Mexicans, with the exception of one Guatemalan. 

Hurtado is accused of assaulting a U.S. citizen. Agents learned that two people paid between $15,000 and $18,500 to be transported into the United States from Mexico. 

While officers were attempting to apply leg cuffs on him, a Border Patrol agent struck him in the head with his knee.

The cause of death for all three people was drowning, according to the San Diego Medical Examiner's office, but all three had blunt force trauma injuries to the head, which was a contributing factor. 

When the 40-foot cabin cruiser broke apart in choppy water about 10 a.m., more than 100 people from six agencies rescued the passengers, some of whom were knocked unconscious.

The boat overturned near the Cabrillo National Monument tidepools, according to the medical examiner's office. At the time, the water temperature was roughly 60 degrees.

Maricela Hernandez Chavez, 35, has a GoFundMe page set up to help with her burial expenses. Hernandez leaves behind a 14-year-old daughter in Oaxaca, Mexico, who will live with her mother's parents, according to the GoFundMe page.

Maria Eugenia Chavez-Segovia, 41, and Victor Perez-DeGollado, 29, were also killed. Perez and Hernandez were pronounced dead at the Shelter Island Harbor Police dock at 1401 Shelter Island, according to the medical examiner's office. Chavez-Segovia died at the UC San Diego Medical Center.

Two passengers told agents they were paying between $15,000 and $18,500 to be smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico.

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