Sent in; thank you BB follower from El Paso Times
A federal judge kicked out the news media Thursday from an El Paso sentencing hearing for a
The hearing was for Martin Daniel Castillo Rascon, who was among 13 alleged high-level drug cartel members and associates extradited from Mexico last year following a meeting between U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Mexico Attorney General Arely Gomez Gonzalez.
The extradited group included reputed kingpin Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villarreal and three suspected Barrio Azteca gang members charged in connection with the killings of three people linked to the U.S. Consulate in Juárez in 2010.
U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo removed an El Paso Times reporter from the hearing without providing a reason after granting a defense lawyer's motion to seal the case.
The Times was the only news outlet in the courtroom.
Montalvo could not be reached for comment. An official in his court said that Montalvo would not have time to talk to the Times and, even if he did, he would not comment on any cases.
Castillo, who was wearing a green inmate jumpsuit, was facing several drug-trafficking charges in connection with an alleged drug ring that operated from Jan. 1, 2001, to June 3, 2013.
Castillo, who also is known as "Flaco," is facing one count each of conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute; attempt and conspiracy to import or export marijuana; attempt and conspiracy to import or export cocaine; sell, distribute or dispense marijuana; and aiding and abetting the importation of marijuana.
Castillo was arrested by the FBI in San Antonio following his extradition from Mexico, according to court documents.
Court records do not state which charges Castillo pleaded guilty to or what sentence, if any, he received Thursday.
As Castillo's case was called to be heard by Montalvo, defense lawyer Eduardo Solis noticed a reporter in the courtroom and asked for the judge to order all news media to leave and to seal the case.
Montalvo granted the motion and removed the reporter from the courtroom.
No explanation was given as to why the defense asked for the motion or on Montalvo's decision.
According to the count documents, Castillo and co-defendant Marco Antonio Heredia-Cisneros were arrested in connection with an alleged scheme to import and distribute more than "1,000 kilograms of mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana."
In August 2013, Heredia-Cisneros was arrested after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers found marijuana packages hidden in a car crossing the border at the Zaragoza Bridge, according to a criminal complaint.
Heredia-Cisneros told Homeland Security Investigations agents that he was driving the car to a restaurant on Zaragoza Road in the Lower Valley, the complaint stated. He told HSI agents that it was his third time smuggling marijuana into the United States in the car.
Heredia-Cisneros, who is a Mexican citizen, later that year pleaded guilty to importing marijuana and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. He was sentenced by Montalvo to a year plus a day in prison on Feb. 21, 2014.
Court records show that a document regarding Heredia-Cisneros sentencing is sealed.