Reintroduction of the FLE Protection Act

March 23, 2021 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Larry Cosme, President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) -the nation’s largest non-partisan, not-for-profit professional association representing close to 30,000 federal law enforcement officers and agents across 65 federal agencies – applauded the reintroduction of the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avilia Federal Law Enforcement Protection Act. FLEOA is grateful for the strong support from both Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen Chris Coons (D-DE) who have banded together again to ensure that a loophole in federal law that jeopardizes every federal law enforcement officer and civilian federal employee deployed overseas is closed: 

"The Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Law Enforcement Protection Act addresses a gap in federal law created when a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals threw out the convictions of two members of the Los Zetas drug cartel. In 2011, members of the cartel’s hit squad took the life of ICE-Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Jaime Zapata and left Special Agent Victor Avila critically wounded in an attack of U.S. federal law enforcement.  After the Obama Administration successfully had the attackers extradited to the U.S. to stand trial, seven were ultimately convicted.  In a 2020 decision in the case of United States v. Garcia Sota, however, a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the convictions of two of the defendants for the murder of Special Agent Zapata and the serious wounding of Special Agent Avila.  In a novel interpretation of the statute, the court ruled that 18 U.S.C. Section 1114 does not apply outside of the U.S. This decision created a circuit split, and opened a dangerous loophole in federal law that placed all federal law enforcement and other governmental personnel stationed overseas at risk,” FLEOA President Cosme explained. 

"When Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila were sent into Mexico on an assignment, they went thinking that if something happened, the full weight of the United States federal government would support them," President Cosme said. "Unfortunately, despite the valiant work of both U.S. and Mexican authorities to bring the drug cartel members responsible for murdering Zapata and almost killing Avila to justice, a D.C. Circuit Court decided to throw out the murder charges against these cartel members. The basis of this decision was the finding that the applicable federal laws don't specifically state that federal murder charges apply extraterritoriality, despite having been applied extraterritoriality throughout our nation's history.” 

"The legislation sponsored by Sens. Cornyn and Coons will close this loophole by clarifying the extraterritorial application of 18 U.S.C. 1114.  In so doing, it sends a clear message to criminals and terrorists around the world that those who attack United States federal law enforcement officers will be brought to justice and face the full weight of the U.S. justice system. Closing this loophole also reminds federal law enforcement officers that should they be attacked overseas, the U.S. government will support them and fight for justice on their behalf,” Come furthered. 

"We look forward to working with Sen. Cornyn and Sen. Coons to close this loophole and ensure that the federal law applying to murder of a U.S. citizen overseas specifically states that it applies extraterritoriality so that no American citizen or federal law enforcement officer will ever again have to fear that the US government can't pursue and enforce justice," Cosme concluded. 

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