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Sentencing for convicted Maricopa murderer further delayed
 bwright  / 

FLORENCE — A Maricopa man convicted of first-degree murder and armed robbery in November is still awaiting sentencing, his case affected by the fact he was a juvenile when he committed the crime.

Arthur Magana, 19, of Maricopa was initially scheduled to be sentenced in Pinal County Superior Court on Monday. However, the case is essentially stalled while the defense works to get records released on the defendant, the defendant’s family and the victim to a doctor.

Superior Court Judge Kevin White said the defense needs to amend its motion on the records request to address “non-public records” not pertaining to Magana. These records will be provided to a doctor, who will then submit a report to the court.

According to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2016, life without the possibility of parole can no longer be mandatory for defendants who were juveniles at the time of the crime.

Therefore, White has two options during sentencing — life without the possibility of parole or life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

Magana was 16 at the time of the crime, when 20-year-old Wyatt Miller was killed on Nov. 7, 2016. Miller was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds inside his truck.

Although the sentencing has been delayed for several months since Magana’s conviction, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office wants to expedite the process.

“From the state’s perspective, it’s important to get this going as soon as possible,” prosecutor Patrick Johnson told White during Monday’s hearing.

White said he would need a “compelling reason” to approve the release of non-public records from state and local law enforcement agencies, especially pertaining to anyone other than Magana. That would include Magana’s family and the victim.

If the request was narrowed solely to Magana, White said the records could be released promptly.

Johnson previously called Miller’s murder a “planned execution” by Magana. While Magana was in police custody, a conversation he had with an accomplice was video-recorded. During that conversation, Magana described details of Miller’s murder and said he would “do it again.”

A status hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 14.

Number of border crossers drops amid Mexican crackdown

PHOENIX (AP) — The Trump administration said Monday it saw a 30% drop in the number of people apprehended at the southern U.S. border from July to August, amid an aggressive crackdown by the Mexican government on migrants traveling north.

Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan said at the White House that the percentage of border crossers who are traveling as families also slid, a welcome change for U.S. authorities who claim adults bring children to the U.S. because the government can’t detain them for as long. Migrants traveling in families and unaccompanied children accounted for 57% of border arrests in August, down from 67% in July and 72% in May.

Morgan credited President Donald Trump’s efforts to reduce immigration as well as the Mexican government’s clampdown on migrants traveling north, which it says resulted in a 56% reduction in three months. He said the drop has “nothing to do” with seasonal trends in which fewer migrants cross during the hot summer months.

“We are absolutely encouraged by the downward trend of apprehension numbers but we know these numbers can always spike upwards,” he said. “History has shown that. We’ve seen it happen in the past.”

The Border Patrol apprehended just over 50,600 people at the southern border in August, compared to nearly 72,000 in July and over 132,000 in May, at the peak of illegal border crossings. Authorities at official ports of entries also turned away 13,300 people in August, an increase from the 10,000 turned back in July. There are about 19,000 people waiting in Mexico to formally request asylum in the U.S.

Randy Capps, director of research at the Migration Policy Institute, said while the number of apprehensions has dropped, it’s still high compared to August in other years. He said the spike the U.S. saw in the spring isn’t necessarily tied to the weather but to chaos at the border.

“The smugglers know when there’s chaos they have a lot more options. They can lower prices or make better guarantees,” Capps said.

A majority of immigrants coming to the U.S. are Central American families who turn themselves in after crossing the border and are fleeing violence and poverty. Many seek asylum.

Yuma, Arizona, saw a dramatic spike in the number of families and unaccompanied children coming to the border over the past two years, making it the third-busiest sector in the Southwest. So far this year, the Yuma sector has seen over 51,000 family units. That’s compared to just over 10,700 the year before— a 316% increase.

In June, border officials announced they’d built a temporary, 500-person capacity tent facility in the back parking lot of the Border Patrol’s Yuma headquarters. The agency spent just under $15 million for the setup and services for four months, including meals, laundry and security.

But the number of arrivals there has fallen sharply, and officials are evaluating whether to keep the facility running after the four-month contract expires next month.

The administration has depended on Mexico for its “Remain in Mexico” program, which sends asylum-seekers back to Mexico to wait for U.S. court hearings.

Morgan on Monday said the U.S. has returned 42,000 asylum-seekers since the program began earlier this year but didn’t confirm reports that many had been kidnapped, robbed or fallen victim to extortion in Mexico. Homicides in Mexico have soared to nearly 35,000 last year, an increase from the peak of the 2011 cartel violence that left 27,000 dead.

Morgan said the Trump administration cannot rely on Mexico and Central American governments to address what he called a “crisis.” He urged Congress to act on the administration’s agenda, which includes curbing or eliminating protections for asylum-seeking families and children. The U.S. also has been pushing Guatemala and other countries to accept asylum-seekers heading to the U.S.

The announcement came as a federal judge in California on Monday reinstated a nationwide halt on the Trump administration’s plan to prevent most migrants from seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. That policy banned most immigrants who pass through another country before reaching the United States from seeking asylum. It reversed decades of U.S. policy in what Trump administration officials said was an attempt to close the gap between an initial asylum screening that most people pass and a final decision on asylum that most people do not win.

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Hearings planned on proposed north-south Pinal freeway

PHOENIX — State transportation officials plan a series of public hearings next month on the route for a proposed north-south freeway in Pinal County.

The Draft Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement for the 55-mile North-South Corridor, stretching from U.S. 60 in the Apache Junction area to Interstate 10 in or near Eloy in Pinal County, is now available for review and comment.

Following several years of study, technical analysis and input from communities and stakeholders, moving to this phase is seen as a milestone for the proposed corridor.

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, the purpose of the north-south freeway is enhancing the area’s transportation network to accommodate the current and future population, improving access to businesses and other centers of activity, improving regional mobility, providing an alternative to and reducing congestion on Interstate 10, improving north-to-south connectivity and integrating the region’s transportation network.

ADOT said members of the public are encouraged to review the draft environmental document and provide input through Oct. 29. The Draft Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement is available at, and the website lists locations throughout the study area where copies of the Draft Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement are available for review.

Prepared by ADOT, the Draft Tier 1 document describes the study process, completed in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. It proposes a Preferred Corridor Alternative, including a parallel analysis of a No-Build Alternative. If constructed, the freeway would connect with State Route 24 in Queen Creek.

The Preferred Corridor Alternative is 1,500 feet wide and includes an area where construction of a north-south freeway could be further analyzed. If a corridor is selected at the end of the Tier 1 study, further Tier 2 studies and evaluations must take place before construction could be considered. The corridor would be narrowed to a highway alignment, which is about 400 feet wide.

An alignment determining where the north-south freeway could be built would be decided during a future phase of design and environmental studies, ADOT said. There currently are no plans or funding available to initiate these Tier 2 studies.

The public hearings and locations are:

  • Florence, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Florence High School, 1000 S. Main St.
  • Eloy, Thursday, Oct. 10, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Eloy City Hall, 595 N. C St.
  • San Tan Valley, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Poston Butte High School, 32375 N. Gantzel Road.

In addition to providing verbal or written comments at a public hearing, members of the public can submit comments using the following methods:

  • Online:
  • Email: (link sends email)
  • Bilingual phone: 1-855-712-8530
  • Mail: North-South Tier 1 EIS Study Team, c/o ADOT Communications, 1655 W. Jackson St., Mail Drop 126F, Phoenix, AZ 85007

Printed copies of the Draft Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement are available for review at the following locations:

  • Eloy Santa Cruz Library: 1000 N. Main St., Eloy.
  • Coolidge Public Library: 160 W. Central Ave., Coolidge.
  • Florence Community Library: 778 N. Main St., Florence.
  • Apache Junction Public Library: 1177 N. Idaho Road, Apache Junction.
  • Queen Creek Library: 21802 S. Ellsworth Road, Queen Creek.

Once the public comment period is complete for the Draft Tier 1 statement, the North-South Corridor study team will continue to evaluate the Preferred Corridor Alternative based on the comments received and the ongoing technical analysis.

The combined Final Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement and the Record of Decision will present either a Selected Corridor Alternative or the No-Build Option. The Tier 1 environmental study is expected to be complete in 2020.