A Mexican internal security commander indicted by a grand jury investigating the kidnap-slaying of U.S. drug agent Enrique S. Camarena says the charge is a ploy by prosecutors to keep him in a San Diego jail.
Mario Martinez Herrera, charged Friday with perjury, insists he told the truth to the grand jury during 2 1/2 hours of testimony, according to defense attorney Michael P. Murray. Murray met over the weekend with Martinez, an officer of the Mexican General Directorate of Investigations and National Security, at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
"We view it merely as a device, a procedure they're employing to keep him around a little longer," Murray said of the indictment in an interview Sunday.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrested Martinez, 37, in Chula Vista last Monday as a material witness in the investigation of Camarena's kidnap and killing last year in Guadalajara.
Martinez has insisted he had no involvement in the brutal slaying, and Murray was confidently predicting as late as Friday afternoon that Martinez stood a good chance of being released early this week to return to Mexico.
Instead, Martinez, a Tijuana native currently working in Mexico City for the internal security agency, was charged with lying twice to the grand jury. The perjury indictment alleges he lied when he denied being at a funeral in Guadalajara in the summer of 1984. He also is accused of lying when he said he had never been at the house in Guadalajara where, investigators say, drug merchants tortured Camarena in February, 1985.
U.S. Atty. Peter K. Nunez declined to say Sunday how prosecutors would establish that Martinez lied to the grand jury. But he insisted the indictment was not just a gambit to keep the Mexican officer in jail.
"It's not a ploy," Nunez said.
According to Murray, Martinez--who is being held in isolation at the downtown federal jail--was having second thoughts about cooperating with prosecutors by providing a sample of his voice. Investigators reportedly want to see whether his voice matches one heard on a tape recording of the Camarena torture sessions obtained by U.S. authorities.
"Cooperation is a two-way street," Murray said. "He has been cooperating right from the start. We're hoping that courtesy will be returned."
Martinez continues to claim he told the truth to the grand jury, according to Murray.
"He's passed through Guadalajara. He may have gotten something to eat," the lawyer said. "But he has not been at a funeral. And he has not been at that house."
Murray said he will ask a federal judge early this week to unseal the affidavit that initially led to Martinez's arrest. Though he expects prosecutors will seek to have Martinez held without bail, Murray said he also will request that a hearing concerning Martinez's detention be held quickly.