A prominent Mexican businessman charged with lying to a grand jury investigating the murder of U.S. drug agent Enrique Camarena defied a prosecutor’s prediction Monday simply by showing up in court.
“We’re pleasantly surprised,” Assistant U.S. Atty. Adam Schiff said after Ruben Zuno Arce arrived as promised in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Schiff had earlier argued unsuccessfully against bail for Zuno, saying it was unlikely the wealthy, well-connected businessman would ever return to the United States if given the chance to leave.
During Monday’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Robert M. Takasugi ordered that Zuno’s perjury trial date be moved from Nov. 7 to Dec. 12 to allow time for a series of pretrial motions to be argued.
Zuno’s attorneys are attempting to learn the identity of government informants. Prosecutors have been protective of their identity, Schiff said, because “a number of people” connected with the Camarena case “have ended up dead.”
Zuno, the 59-year-old brother-in-law of former Mexican President Luis Echevveria, is suspected by U.S. authorities of being a drug trafficker--an allegation he denies. He was arrested by immigration officers in San Antonio on Aug. 9 and brought to Los Angeles as a material witness in the 1985 murder of Camarena.
Prosecutors say Zuno owned the Guadalajara house in which Camarena was tortured before he was murdered. Zuno was indicted by a federal grand jury on three perjury counts after he denied knowing Mexican drug lords Rafael Caro Quintero and Ernesto Fonesca Carillo. Both men are in Mexican jails pending charges in the Camarena slaying.
Zuno spent two months in federal custody before his release Oct. 11 on a $200,000 bond. Zuno’s attorney, Edward Medvene, said he never doubted his client would return to face charges.
Schiff said he still considers Zuno a flight risk. “We’re not at the day of trial yet,” he said. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”