San Diego

A former Border Patrol agent who had escaped from custody was sentenced Monday to two years in federal prison.

U.S. District Judge J. Lawrence Irving told Martin Nava, 27, of Chula Vista that he felt the escape charge was more serious than the charge that Nava was originally held on--transporting two Mexican women into the United States illegally. Nava was fined $1,000 for that offense.

Nava was arrested June 25 after fellow Border Patrol agents stopped his car on a farm road about six miles east of the San Ysidro border crossing. Nava was off duty and out of uniform at the time.

His attorney, Cindy Aaron, told Irving that had Nava "not been a Border Patrol agent, he might not have been prosecuted."

Aaron said Nava was romantically involved with one of the women at the time. She said Nava panicked after his arrest, prompting him to escape.

Nava, who has since become a salesman, told the judge he had "made a mistake and will pay for what I did."

Assistant U.S. Atty. Thomas Ferraro said the case "involves a breach of trust."

Ferraro said Nava was neither handcuffed nor put in a holding tank with other prisoners after his arrest because of his position with the Border Patrol.

Irving allowed Nava to remain free until Feb. 8, when he will surrender to prison officials. Nava promised the judge he will show up then.

Nava pleaded guilty Oct. 26 to escaping from custody and transporting an illegal alien across the border. He could have received 10 years in prison and fines up to $500,000.

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