Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
A former senior Border Patrol agent married to the interim chief of the El Paso sector has been charged with sexually assaulting a female agent in Arizona.
Gus Zamora, 51, was indicted by a Pima County grand jury in July on three counts of felony sexual assault and one felony count of kidnapping. He retired at the end of July.
During a pre-trial conference on Monday his trial was set for April 28.
A female Border Patrol agent called police to report a sexual assault on May 25. The woman, a junior agent, told authorities she considered Zamora a mentor. She said that at dinner at a restaurant in Tucson, Zamora bought several rounds of tequila shots and other drinks and then took her back to his hotel room and forced himself on her. Zamora has pleaded not guilty and told police the sex was consensual.
He was arrested in July, the same month his wife, Gloria Chavez, a high-ranking Border Patrol Chief, took the helm of the troubled El Paso sector that includes all of New Mexico.
Chief Chavez in an interview with the Journal said improving conditions in the field is among her top priorities. She has gotten high marks from the local agents’ union in the two months she’s been on the job.
The Border Patrol’s handling of her husband’s case, though, is raising questions. Zamora retired on July 31 before an internal investigation was complete.
“They allowed him to resign and get his full benefits so nothing could happen to him,” said Jenn Budd, a former Border Patrol agent.
Budd, an agent from 1995 to 2001, said, “Every woman in the Border Patrol has received some sort of sexual harassment.” She said she was sexually assaulted by a classmate at the Border Patrol academy, adding that leadership has failed female agents who report sexual assaults.
She questions the actions of Roy Villareal – the Border Patrol chief of the Tucson sector – who attended the dinner with Zamora and the female agent the night of the alleged assault.
“Nobody at any point said this is not appropriate,” Budd said. Villareal told police he did not notice anything inappropriate that night.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in a statement released by headquarters following the criminal investigation, said the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility will “review all the facts uncovered to ensure all allegations of misconduct by any CBP employee involved are thoroughly investigated for appropriate action by the agency.”
About 8% of the Border Patrol’s 20,000 agents are women. The woman leading the Border Patrol, Chief Carla L. Provost, came under fire earlier this year after it was revealed she was a member of a private Facebook group for current and former agents where some posted vulgar comments and images about women who are Democratic members of Congress.
Chavez, meanwhile, has not commented on her husband’s case. She and Zamora have been married for 20 years.
“She’s not responsible for his behavior, but she is responsible as the chief of a sector to say ‘I support my agents, and this isn’t going to happen,'” Budd said.