The Jalisco Attorney General confirmed yesterday that the release earlier this week of a man believed to be a key operator of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) was due to a procedural error.
Sergio Kurt Schmidt Sandoval, also known as La Pistola, spent almost one year in prison after being arrested on August 19 last year. But on Tuesday, a judge decided to release him after it was determined there was a violation of due process during the arrest.
Before Schmidt was arrested, state judicial authorities designated two agents as witnesses of the procedure. When the authorities entered Schmidt’s home, he was given the choice of designating two different witnesses or staying with those already designated.
Schmidt elected to choose his own, his wife and son. But no one, neither the original witnesses nor the new ones, officially signed off on the change as required.
That detail was enough for the judge to release the individual identified as the gangster who managed the cartel’s money.
After his arrest last year, Attorney General Jesús Eduardo Almaguer Ramírez described Schmidt as the liaison between the cartel and politicians. He alleged that Schmidt had been involved in illegal activities in the state for three decades, and that Emilio González Márquez, governor between 2007 and 2013, had given him full control over state penitentiaries.
He was arrested on drug trafficking and weapons charges.
National Security Commissioner Renato Sales Heredia said at the time that Schmidt was one of the 122 priority criminal targets of the federal government.
Almaguer said this yesterday that Schmidt had not been absolved of the charges against him. “. . . the judge never ruled that he was not culpable of the crimes charged against him. [Schmidt was released] for violations to due process.”
He said authorities remain very attentive to Schmidt’s activities and those of his associates given his standing as a key target for security forces.