FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A former Guatemalan soldier who prosecutors say acknowledged taking part in a 1982 massacre was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in U.S. prison for lying on citizenship forms about his military service and role in the killings.
Gilberto Jordan, 54, received the maximum sentence possible in federal court in Florida.
Jordan pleaded guilty earlier this year to making false statements on his 1999 naturalization forms, which enabled him to obtain U.S. citizenship. That citizenship was revoked and officials said Jordan will be deported to face prosecution in Guatemala once his prison term is completed.
Jordan could have received just six months behind bars under sentencing guidelines. But prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge William Zloch to impose the maximum possible, a 10-year sentence.
They said Jordan admitted to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents that he participated in the December 1982 massacre in the Guatemalan village of Dos Erres, including personally throwing an infant down a well.
Investigators say at least 162 people died, many hit with sledgehammers or shot.
"Mr. Jordan admitted to killing a baby. He then participated in the killings of countless other men, women and children," said Hillary Davidson, a U.S. Justice Department senior trial attorney. "He never should have been allowed to live here peacefully for many years."
Zloch was just as harsh, saying Jordan tried to hide "his background as a mass murderer." Referring to the 10-year sentence, the judge said: "Anything less would be totally inadequate as just punishment for this crime and its accompanying heinous acts."
Jordan insists he did not want to kill anyone at Dos Erres, but was told if he did not follow orders he could be killed as well, said his attorney Robin C. Rosen-Evans, an assistant federal public defender.
In brief comments to the judge, Jordan asked in Spanish for forgiveness, including from survivors and family members of those slain.
"This is an incident that occurred in my life that I never expected to happen," he said.
Nearly three decades ago in Guatemala, Jordan was a sergeant in an elite infantry unit known as the "Kaibiles." In 1982, that group was attempting to wipe out an armed insurgency by guerrillas opposed to the military government in power.
A decades-long civil war in Guatemala claimed at least 200,000 lives before it ended in 1996.
Jordan served in the Guatemalan military for two years after the killings, then in 1985 came to the U.S. illegally, authorities said. He eventually settled in Boca Raton, Fla., and had worked as a cook at a country club from 2004 until he was arrested by U.S. agents in May.
Last week, a Guatemalan judge ordered three men to stand trial for the Dos Erres massacre, and arrest orders have been issued against 14 other suspects including Jordan. He would face more than 20 years in prison for each person killed if convicted in Guatemala of murder and crimes against humanity, Guatemalan authorities said.
Associated Press writer Luis Angel Sas contributed to this story from Guatemala City.