Rancher Charged with Murdering Trespassing Illegal Immigrant Wins Ultimate Court Victory


Editor’s Note: Our readers responded strongly to this story when it originally ran; we’re reposting it here in case you missed it.

A rancher previously charged with the fatal shooting of an illegal immigrant who encroached on his Arizona ranch will not have to face trial again.

An Arizona Superior Court judge on July 9 dismissed second-degree murder and assault charges against George Alan Kelly “with prejudice,” according to KGUN-TV. This ruling means the rancher cannot face charges again, closing a final chapter in a case that began over a year ago.

“The interests of justice are not served by the dismissal without prejudice for case that cannot and will not be re-tried,” Judge Thomas Fink declared, according to KGUN. “The interests of justice are not advanced where the only thing to be accomplished by a dismissal without prejudice, where there is not possibility that a re-trial will occur, is the harassment of the Defendant.”

“For those reasons, the interests of justice call for finality,” Fink added.

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Kelly was charged on Jan. 30, 2023, for second-degree murder and aggravated assault after he allegedly shot unarmed illegal immigrant Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, 48, as he was traveling through Kelly’s property along the Arizona-Mexico border.

Cuen-Buitimea, a Mexican national, was crossing with a group of illegal immigrants at the time and ran away after spotting Border Patrol agents near the border where they had passed. His group passed through Kelly’s ranch as they were allegedly heading back to the southern border to evade border agents.

State prosecutors argued that the rancher recklessly fired his AK-47 from a distance of roughly 115 yards, allegedly striking Cuen-Buitimea in the back and killing him, while Kelly’s defense team claimed that he had only fired warning shots several yards above the group of migrants to protect him and his wife.

However, Fink declared a mistrial on April 22 after jurors were unable to reach a unanimous decision on a verdict after more than two days of deliberations. The judge informed prosecutors after the mistrial that their choices were to either retry the case or drop it altogether — with prosecutors choosing the latter.

Did the court get this one right?

Fink at the time said a hearing would be scheduled to determine whether the case would be dismissed with prejudice, meaning it couldn’t be brought back to court.

State prosecutors said they would not seek a retrial, but they motioned for the court to dismiss the case without prejudice, meaning the state could re-try the case in the event that new evidence arises, according to KGUN.

“The State’s motion to dismiss without prejudice is denied. In the interests of justice the case is ordered dismissed with prejudice,” Judge Fink said.

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