SAN DIEGO -- Victor Sivilla, a Tijuana perfume salesman convicted of smuggling drugs across the border will get a new trial after the government destroyed evidence in his case.
In 2010, Border agents discovered $160,000 worth of cocaine and heroin hidden in the engine of Sivilla’s jeep.
Sivilla said he didn’t know the drugs were there, and suspected his sister-in-law’s boyfriend. He had borrowed the car shortly before Sivilla made one of his regular border crossings to buy perfume for his business.
At his San Diego trial, Sivilla’s defense argued that the people responsible had hidden the drugs in a way that would allow them to quickly extract them after Sivilla parked and walked away.
But the Department of Homeland Security auctioned off the car, and it was stripped for parts before Sivilla’s defense could inspect it. Sivilla was convicted and given a 10-year sentence.
Last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said the government’s failure to preserve the evidence in the case was grounds for a new trial.