Judge dismisses charges against George Alan Kelly

Posted at 4:34 PM, July 9, 2024

NOGALES, Ariz. (Court TV) — A judge has dismissed murder and assault charges against an Arizona rancher with prejudice, meaning he cannot face trial again in the future.

George Alan Kelly listens to closing arguments in court.

George Alan Kelly listens to closing arguments in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Nogales, Ariz. Kelly was charged with second-degree murder in the January 2023 death of 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, who lived south of the border in Nogales, Mexico. (Angela Gervasi/Nogales International, via AP, Pool)

George Alan Kelly‘s trial on murder and assault charges ended with a mistrial in April after jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict after deliberating for more than two days. The mistrial would have allowed prosecutors to retry the case, but now a judge has taken the option off the table.

Kelly had claimed he was protecting himself, his wife and his home when he opened fire on a group of migrants on his property on Jan. 30, 2023. Prosecutors accused him of ambushing the victim, Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, and said that he had a “propensity for violence toward the victim’s race, ethnicity, national origin and/or immigration status.”

MORE | AZ v. George Alan Kelly: Border Migrant Murder Trial

At a status hearing on April 29, prosecutors told Judge Thomas Fink they did not plan to retry the case, but wanted the charges dismissed without prejudice — which would have given them the option to bring charges in the future. At a hearing in June, prosecutors specified that they wanted to keep the chance to bring the case to a jury again if a change in circumstance made the case more viable. Those factors included:

  1. “The Defendant may make statements to the media in the future, or write a book, which could be incriminating;
  2. ‘Unknown witnesses’ may come forward in the future;
  3. The ‘political situation’ may change and ‘that may change the attitudes of the jurors;’
  4. The rule change that took away peremptory challenges may change, would would be to the State’s benefit.”

In his ruling, Judge Fink said, “The reasons the state has given as to why it wants this case dismissed without prejudice are illusory. They simply are not going to happen, and, even if they did, they would not address the fundamental problems of proof with the State’s case.”

Kelly had previously rejected a plea agreement with prosecutors, which would have reduced his charges to one count of negligent homicide if he pleaded guilty. He has maintained his innocence throughout the process.