Border agent seen punching teen went unpunished

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — For nearly eight months after federal investigators saw videos of a U.S. Border Patrol agent punching a teenager in the stomach, the agent continued to work and went unpunished.

The agent, Aldo Arteaga, a nearly 10-year veteran, is now facing an assault charge in Santa Cruz County.

Arteaga was charged last week with felony aggravated assault, which applies in Arizona when an adult is accused of assault on a minor under age 15. But the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor Thursday because the teen Arteaga is seen punching was 15 years old during the Jan. 30 incident. The boy was deported to Mexico that same day.

Documents released Thursday reveal that a senior special agent from the Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates allegations of misconduct, saw the videos and noted that Arteaga had punched the boy.

The videos, which were shown to The Associated Press, show an agent identified as Arteaga punching the teen in the stomach after apparently catching him using a cellphone, which detainees are not allowed to have.

The black-and-white videos do not have audio. They show the teenager hunched down with what appears to be a cellphone in his hand. Moments later, the agent enters the cell, takes the phone and punches the boy in the stomach, knocking him over. The boy lies in a fetal position until another agent walks in, kicks his foot and escorts him out.

The investigator notified the U.S. attorney's office, and a prosecutor watched the videos Feb. 12. A month later, federal prosecutors declined to take on the case.

The prosecutor, whose name is redacted in the report, said that the assault "did not appear egregious enough to warrant prosecution."

The case was then turned over from the Office of Professional Responsibility to internal affairs at Customs and Border Protection.

CBP in late September gave its investigation to the Santa Cruz County attorney's office, which filed the charge against Arteaga.

He was issued a summons and turned himself in but was released on his own recognizance after being booked. Arteaga was placed on administrative leave.

The agent's attorney has declined to comment but said in court documents that Arteaga's actions "were necessary and proper to perform his duties."

A CBP spokesman did not return calls seeking comment late Thursday.

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