SAN DIEGO (AP) — Federal prosecutors on Tuesday dropped corruption charges against the longtime former head of the union representing Border Patrol agents, 18 months after accusing him of defrauding the organization out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
U.S. District Judge William Hayes agreed to the government's request to dismiss nine counts of conspiracy and fraud against Terence J. Bonner one day before a key hearing to determine what evidence would be allowed at trial. The decision followed a series of pretrial setbacks for prosecutors, including a ruling that that they cannot use pornographic images seized from computers in Bonner's home.
Bonner, former president of the National Border Patrol Council, said the prosecution was "pure political retribution" for his outspoken positions against immigration enforcement policies.
"I feel relieved, but at the same time I feel violated, for lack of a better word," he said in an interview. "I've undergone four years of hell, where they've dragged my name through the mud and made baseless allegations against me. ... It was a message they were sending against anyone who speaks out against the policies of the government."
Bonner, 60, was the union's president from 1989 until he retired in 2011 — a period of major growth in U.S. border enforcement. The indictment says he represented more than 14,000 agents and other employees who paid monthly dues of $56 to the union, which is part of the American Federation of Government Employees and AFL-CIO.
Prosecutors accused Bonner of submitting expense vouchers for meals, car rentals, luggage, books and other activities when he was traveling for personal reasons. The indictment said his false claims cover periods when he was visiting a mistress in Chicago, his family, hockey games and other sporting events unrelated to the union.
The National Border Patrol Council's current leadership has distanced itself from Bonner, saying after charges were filed that it adopted tighter internal controls.