AUSTIN, Texas - 60-year-old James Matthew Bradley Jr. appeared before Federal Judge Elizabeth Chestney Monday morning in San Antonio. The United States Attorney's office said he's charged with one count of "transporting illegal aliens."
A Federal complaint filed Monday morning alleges Bradley violated the law for financial gain, resulting in the deaths of 10 of the immigrants he was transporting.
San Antonio Police said when they got to the Walmart parking lot early Sunday morning, people were standing and laying near the back of the trailer. The officer shined his light in the cab and Bradley stepped out. He claimed he didn't know what the cargo was.
Later, during questioning at the police department, Bradley told law enforcement he was hauling the trailer from Iowa for his boss who had sold it to someone in Brownsville, Texas.
Bradley said he had gotten the trailer washed and detailed in Laredo which would have been out of his way.
It wasn't until he stopped to go to the bathroom in San Antonio that he heard commotion coming from the trailer.
Bradley said the refrigeration wasn't working and the 4 vent holes were probably clogged up.
The officer took Bradley into custody and found 8 immigrants dead inside. And more were suffering from dehydration and heat-related issues.
"Firefighters found that each one of them had heart rates over about a 130 beats per minute which again they were very hot to the touch," said San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood.
Two more died at the hospital bringing the death toll to 10.
Judge Elizabeth Chestney explained everything to Bradley in the courtroom Monday, the punishment he's facing including life in prison or even the death penalty. Bradley qualified for a court-appointed attorney. And because the death penalty is on the table he'll also get a second attorney.
According to the criminal complaint, one undocumented immigrant told Homeland Security he was smuggled across the Mexican border in a group of 28 people. They took a raft across the river.
When they got on the road in the back of the trailer, it was dark, there was no food, no water and no refrigeration. The immigrant reported people had trouble breathing and started to pass out. They beat on the wall to try and get the driver's attention and took turns breathing from a ventilation hole.
When the rear door opened, he said six black SUV's were waiting to pick people up but they quickly filled and took off.
Another immigrant told Homeland Security when he got in the trailer they were nearly 200 people inside.