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Starr County man implicated in major drug trafficking case asks judge to release him from jail amid coronavirus concerns

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A man accused of participating in a major Starr County drug trafficking organization — and suspected of kidnapping and murdering his own cousin, according to federal prosecutors — wants to be released from jail because he's concerned about the coronavirus.

The U.S. Border Patrol arrested Daniel Sepulveda, 28, of Rio Grande City in July 2019, when agents caught him driving an ATV loaded with 320 kilograms of cocaine, according to federal court records. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas believes Sepulveda is part of a drug trafficking organization with cartel connections.

Sepulveda isn't just suspected of drug trafficking, said DEA Case Agent Christopher Donahue, who testified during Sepulveda's detention hearing. He's also accused of participating in the kidnapping and murder of his cousin, Joaquin Sepulveda. 

The DEA also accused Sepulveda of threatening federal agents by saying "he wasn't afraid to die, and he would've killed at least two agents," Donahue said.

The defendant was ordered detained and is currently in Brooks County Detention, according to his attorney, Daniel Sanchez. He filed a motion on Tuesday requesting the judge set a bond that would allow his client be held instead in-house arrest. Sanchez wrote in the order he is concerned with the COVID-19 pandemic and "the inability to meet with the defendants at the detention center for risk of virus spread."

Brooks County Sheriff Urbino Martinez said that attorneys continue to have access to their clients at the detention center as normal, with a glass partition between them.

Sepulveda is one of three defendants named in the federal indictment for conspiring to possess and distribute cocaine. A response from the government was filed Wednesday afternoon. Assistant United States Attorney Patricia Profit expressed the government is opposed to this motion due to the severity of the charges, Sepulveda's propensity for violence, and a flight risk. Text messages obtained by the government reveal Sepulveda had previously talked about leaving to Mexico.

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