An attorney for a retired Colombian police general arraigned here Friday on U.S. federal drug charges said his client's jailed accusers are seeking milder punishment for themselves.
Gen. Mauricio Santoyo, who served as then-President Alvaro Uribe's security chief from 2002-2006, surrendered this week to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Colombia and was flown to Washington.
"You have to keep in mind that there's always someone who's receiving some benefit, something for something," defense counsel Oscar Rodriguez told reporters after Santoyo's arraignment at a federal district court in Alexandria.
At the hearing, which lasted just a few minutes, the judge set an Aug. 24 deadline for filing motions and scheduled the start of the trial for Sept. 11.
Rodriguez said the defense has "an idea" who may be behind the accusations against Santoyo but refused to give names.
The defendant was without handcuffs and wore his own clothing at the arraignment, presided over by Judge James C. Cacheris.
Rodriguez told reporters the defense team will try to regularize Santoyo's immigration status so he can seek release on bond, noting that he entered the country without a visa after turning himself in to DEA agents in Bogota.
He said his client has the right to a presumption of innocence and noted that he freely turned himself in to face the charges.
The retired police general is accused of taking bribes from drug traffickers and the now-defunct United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, paramilitary federation in exchange for information about ongoing investigations by Colombian, British and U.S. intelligence services.
Santoyo came under investigation after three erstwhile AUC commanders extradited to the United States - Salvatore Mancuso, Juan Carlos Sierra and Carlos Mario Jimenez - testified that he had accepted bribes.
Santoyo, who retired from the National Police in 2009, met Uribe in 1995 when he was part of that force's anti-kidnapping unit and later served as the politician's security chief during his 2002 presidential campaign and first administration.
Uribe, who left office in 2010 after two terms, said he did not personally appoint Santoyo to his posts but that the retired general performed his duties adequately. EFE