The three judges from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that the United States cannot be held liable for the bloody attack and sexual assault of a mother and daughter at the hands of a Border Patrol agent in 2014.
The ruling has its roots on March 12, 2014, the day Border Patrol agent Esteban Manzanares apprehended MDCG, her daughter, NLMC, and their 14-year-old friend, JMAE, for entering the country illegally near Abram. The victims are identified in court document with pseudonyms.
On that day, Manzanares loaded the women into his vehicle and “drove around to various locations in the South Texas countryside where he physically and sexually abused the three helpless immigrants.
“This abuse included rape, beatings, knife body-carvings, strangulations, and the attempted burial of a living victim,” the ruling stated. “The day from hell climaxed with suicide — of the Border Patrol Agent who was found dead, with JMAE tied to his bed, when alerted law enforcement arrived at his apartment.”
The women sued in 2015, alleging claims of assault and battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring, retention and supervision.
A district court dismissed claims against the United States based on Manzanares’ conduct, ruling that the government could not be held liable because it fell outside the scope of his employment. The district court did rule, however, in favor of the women on claims made by MDCG and her daughter of negligent supervision of Manzanares.
The women appealed and the case landed in the hands of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
On Tuesday, the higher court agreed with the district court’s ruling that the United States could not be held liable because Manzanares’ behavior was not in furtherance of his job as a Border Patrol agent, landing outside the scope of his employment. The 5th Circuit also overturned the district court’s ruling that the negligent supervision claim could go forward, remanding the case back to the lower court with an order of dismissal.
Neither ruling, however, impacts claims of negligent supervision brought by JMAE, the family friend. The district court has ruled her case on this claim should go to trial.
‘DAY FROM HELL’
When MDCG, her daughter and JMAE entered the country illegally on March 12, 2014, they could never have imagined the horror they would face after encountering Manzanares near the Rio Grande.
Manzanares told the trio, who were from Honduras, that he would take them to a facility for mothers and their children, but before that he made several stops.
On the second stop, he placed black restraint bands on their wrists before eventually driving to a McAllen processing facility.
Instead of bringing the women inside, he left them in his vehicle.
“Manzanares then drove the plaintiffs to an unpopulated area where he taped their mouths and wrists, which he said was due to receiving a secondary order,” the ruling stated.
When he stopped in that unpopulated area, the hell began as Manzanares forcibly removed MDCG and her daughter from his truck.
“Manzanares then struck MDCG’s face and body, forcibly dragged her up a hill, strangled her, and twisted her neck,” the ruling stated. “Manzanares then pulled out a knife and began to cut MDCG’s arms and wrists. MDCG believed she was going to be killed and, at some point, lost consciousness.”
Then he started in on NLMC, who struggled as he strangled, choked and twisted her neck. He also provocatively touched her private parts and cut her arm with a knife during the assault.
“Manzanares also took pictures of NLMC’s semi-unclothed body,” the ruling stated. “When Manzanares was taking these pictures, NLMC played dead.”
During the assault on NLMC, the girl’s mother regained consciousness and ran for help.
She encountered another Border Patrol agent who asked her why she was “disheveled and covered in blood,” to which she replied that she had been assaulted by someone “dressed just like you.”
The agent radioed for help and took the woman to the hospital.
“Meanwhile, apparently thinking NLMC was dead, Manzanares covered her with dirt and debris and left the area with JMAE in the vehicle,” the ruling stated. “NLMC recovered, ran away, and began to look for her mother.”
She, too, encountered a Border Patrol agent and was taken to the hospital.
“Manzanares eventually took JMAE to his apartment where he forcibly bathed her, tied her to a bed, sexually assaulted her, and took nude photos of her,” the ruling stated.
As law enforcement closed in, he committed suicide — ending JMAE’s abuse.
A trial date for JMAE has not yet been set, federal court records indicate.