A Corpus Christi attorney is facing four charges of human smuggling after he was arrested in Kinney County last week.
Timothy Dan Japhet was pulled over by Galveston County deputies and a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper on Ranch Road 674 near Brackettville on Aug. 13, according to Galveston County Constable Jimmy Fullen.
Fullen said his deputies were in Kinney County as part of Operation Lone Star, Gov. Greg Abbott’s task force leans up security to target illegal immigration.
The trooper and three deputies were executing a traffic stop when they heard a vehicle approaching at a high rate of speed, Fullen said. The vehicle did not yield to the law enforcement vehicles.
The trooper and a deputy followed the vehicle until it crossed the center line. The deputy then initiated a traffic stop and approached the driver’s side of the vehicle while the trooper approached the passenger side, Fullen said.
Fullen said Japhet refused to give his driver’s license and exit the vehicle when asked and allegedly slapped the deputy’s hand when she attempted to open his door through the window. Japhet was taken into custody. There were four passengers in the vehicle who were identified as migrants from Mexico.
In a Facebook post, Japhet said his dog, which was in the vehicle with him, was taken to the Val Verde County Animal Shelter.
Japhet, who is currently eligible to practice according to the State Bar of Texas, faces four counts of human smuggling, which is a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years and up to a $10,000 fine. The Galveston deputy has filed a warrant for resisting arrest that is pending approval from a judge, according to Fullen.
Japhet, who was released after a week in jail, denies smuggling humans and Fullen’s accusation that he resisted arrest. Though he hopes the charges will be dropped, he said the amount of attention the constable’s post received on social media could taint the jury pool.
The post garnered more than 3,000 shares in three days.
“I was perfectly happy just to come home,” Japhet told the Caller-Times. “I was going to file some stuff and let it go … until all of a sudden the internet stuff blew up and then I got my kids and people I care about calling me. The constable has put that on the internet, and anybody who looks at that could be disqualified as a juror or grand juror.”
According to Japhet, he was driving to meet a client at the Lucky Eagle casino in Eagle Pass and stopped for gas near Del Rio when two men asked him for a ride to their next jobsite. After he agreed, two more men jumped into his back seat, he said. The men allegedly asked him to take them to a different jobsite in San Antonio. Japhet said he did not accept money from the men.
Japhet also denies claiming he was a “federally appointed immigration magistrate,” Contrary to the constable’s post.
Japhet has not yet been indicted on the charges. He’s been a licensed attorney since 2003 and has no prior disciplinary record.
“I’m just trying to tread water and defend my reputation as much as I can,” Japhet said.
This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Texas attorney arrested, accused of smuggling migrants
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