Arizona rancher arraigned in Mexican man’s shooting death

An Arizona rancher accused of killing a Mexican man on his land near the U.S.-Mexico border pleaded not guilty Monday to murder and other charges.

George Alan Kelly was present during his arraignment in Santa Cruz Superior Court in Nogales on charges of second-degree murder and aggravated assault.

The 74-year-old spoke briefly, only answering yes-or-no questions from the judge.

Judge Thomas Fink set a trial date of Sept. 6, denying a request from Kelly’s defense attorney for a two-month continuance. Brenna Larkin had asked for more time to interview her own experts and because the state executed an additional search warrant Monday on Kelly’s property.

Kelly left the courtroom immediately after the hearing. He has been allowed to remain free on $1 million bail.

Prosecutors lowered Kelly’s charge from a single count of first-degree murder, which would have required a finding of premeditated intent to kill and could have led to a death sentence. Mexico officials have told U.S. prosecutors that they believe Kelly should have faced a first-degree murder charge.

Kelly is accused of fatally shooting Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, an unarmed 48-year-old migrant from Nogales, Mexico.

Prosecutors have said Kelly had no basis for intentionally or recklessly firing an AK-47 rifle toward eight or so unarmed migrants about 80 to 100 yards (meters) away.

Larkin said her client shot into the air above the migrants. She has said Kelly feared for his and his wife’s safety and the property, and that he had seen people with rifles and backpacks passing through his property.