Jaime Avila, Jr. in Fast and Furious case says 'sorry' to slain Agent Brian Terry's family

The suspect who purchased the two weapons found at the scene of a border patrol agent's December 2010 murder apologized in federal court to the family of the agent.

"I'm sorry about the Terry family – what happened – and that if I had the power to change everything, I would," Jaime Avila, Jr. told a judge during his sentencing hearing Wednesday.

Avila is one of 20 people charged for his involvement in the Fast and Furious gun smuggling case that enabled straw buyers to purchase and distribute weapons to a drug cartel in Mexico.

"I am just trying to change my life – just trying…to be a good father to my son, that that's it, your honor," Avila told the judge.

Judge James Tielborg sentenced Avila to 57 months in prison with three years supervised probation for his role in the smuggling scheme.

Avila's attorney, Candice Shoemaker, told the judge Avila has a "significant substance abuse problem" that led to his involvement in the smuggling operation.

"I think he was shocked and dismayed and hurt in a way that he had no idea his behavior…would lead to such great lengths," Shoemaker said.  She said her client only had a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge on his record when he was recruited to participate in the gun smuggling scheme.

"He's not a gentleman who grew up in gangs," she said.

Avila paid cash for fifty-two assault weapons during a ten month period, according to court records. Avila also "recruited at least two other individuals," for the operation, said Shane Harrigan, a Special U.S. Attorney handling the case.

Avila looked to his mother, father, brother, sister, and girlfriend, who were in the courtroom during the sentencing, as he left the courtroom.

His mother was in tears.

"My brother is a good guy.  He made bad choices," said Beatriz Avila, Avila's sister.  She said her entire family has had to deal with the consequences of his bad decisions, and she remembers when she learned about his actions.

"I was scared, and...my parents and everybody that is close to Jaime were impacted with his decisions," she said.

TERRY'S FAMILY SPEAKS

Brian Terry's cousin, Robert Heyer, delivered a victim impact statement in court. His voice wavered briefly as he spoke about the void in the Terry family after Terry's death.

"Brian was an amazing man," he said. "Many people thought he was superhuman."

Heyer told the court how Terry's death right before Christmas affected the family. Terry, he said, had planned a trip to his hometown in Michigan for the holidays.

"Brian did ultimately come home that Christmas," Heyer said. "We buried him not far from the house that he was raised in."

Heyer said Terry had ordered Christmas presents for his family members and had them shipped prior to his death.

When the gifts arrived, Heyer said, the pain was difficult.

"With each delivery, we felt the indescribable pain of Brian's death," he said.

Heyer, who now runs the Brian Terry Foundation , asked the judge to impose the maximum ten-year sentence, on Avila.

"You have the ability to send a message to anyone who is thinking of becoming a straw buyer of weapons," he told the judge. "You have the ability to hold Mr. Avila fully accountable. You have the ability to send a message to every law abiding citizen of this country that this crime will not be tolerated. You also have the ability to send a message to Brian's family and friends that justice has been served."

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