A judge in the US state of Florida has declared Guatemalan immigrant Virgilio Aguilar Mendez “not competent” to be charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of St. John’s police officer Michael Kunovich. Deshbandhu has been in jail since May last year.
The judicial decision came on December 29, Judge R. Seven days after Lee Smith heard Aguilar Mendez at the hearing. The verdict does not mean he will regain his freedom, as the judge has not yet decided whether he will be eligible for bail.
A declaration of “not competent” indicates that the 18-year-old Guatemalan must receive treatment while in custody. Probably in six months it will be decided whether he already has enough abilities to cope with the process.
Local media quoted defense lawyers as expressing several concerns, including that they could not help prepare their defense, did not appreciate the nature of the charges against them, and did not understand the role. of his public defender. , or the legal system with which it is processed.
Of Mayan origin
Aguilar Méndez is originally from Colotenago, Huehuetenango, his mother tongue is Mam, which may, in part, explain his limitations in understanding the process, since, according to media reports, his understanding of the Spanish language is not complete.
At a hearing on December 22, where his ability to face the process was reviewed, News4Jacks cited excerpts in which Aguilar Mendez answered yes to everything and gave inconsistent answers, and appeared to have problems retaining information even though they appeared together. . Spanish interpreter assistance.
It was also said that he was originally from a remote area of Guatemala that was severely affected by internal armed conflict, which may have affected his behavioral development.
Aguilar Mendez faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter after being involved in a fight with Florida police officers on May 19, which resulted in the death of Sergeant Michael Kunovich.
NEW: An illegal immigrant from Guatemala has been charged after a scuffle with a Florida officer left the officer dead.
Virgilio Aguilar-Mendez got into a fight with Sergeant Michael Kunovich for trespassing back in May.
After placing the teenager in handcuffs, Kunovich broke down… pic.twitter.com/lBPtIfsSE9
— Colin Rugg (@collinrugg) December 16, 2023
That day the Guatemalan migrant walked across the street from the hotel where he was staying in St. Augustine, St. Johns County, to talk to his family in Guatemala on the phone. Then a patrol car with several police officers approached him, and security forces suspected him of trespassing on private property.
The young Guatemalan, who lives with irregular immigration status, tried to explain to officers that he was staying at a hotel, but they could not understand what he was saying because he did not speak English.
An agent’s body camera recorded the entire incident. The collected images show that, not understanding the young man, the officers tried to suppress and detain him, which led to a struggle, which resulted in Kunovich collapsing. Paramedics took him to the hospital, but he died.
He was initially charged with murder, but in July the charge was reduced to manslaughter. A medical report determined that Kunovich died of natural causes, cardiac arrhythmia.
Defense lawyers have asked for his release on bail, which could happen in the coming weeks.
Gordon Duke, director of the Massachusetts-based Keiche Maya Organization, said he fears that while Aguilar Mendez is under treatment, he will be given drugs without his consent so that he will react to the will of the accusing party.
He added that, in the process, the prosecutor’s office tries to translate sophisticated words that do not exist in the Maam language. In this sense, he insisted that the Ministry of External Affairs (Minex) and the Human Rights Ombudsman Act.
Minex “requested precautionary measures to ensure that Aguilar Mendez does not have the understanding to authorize treatment,” and emphasized that Guatemalan migrants need court-authorized and certified MAM translators to face due process.