Arizona rancher released on $1 million bail; Attorney slams prosecutors’ lack of evidence

by WorldTribune Staff, February 24, 2023

The Arizona rancher who was charged with murder in connection to the shooting of an illegal alien on his property near the Mexico border has been released on $1 million bail.

George Alan Kelly posted bond on Wednesday after appearing in court, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Gerardo Castillo confirmed.

George Alan Kelly

Kelly’s attorney, Brenna Larkin, said she was unable to comment Thursday when asked about the rancher’s release.

However, in court on Wednesday, Larkin slammed prosecutors for charging Kelly with first-degree premeditated murder before a thorough investigation into the Jan. 30 shooting could be conducted.

The rancher was charged with two additional counts of aggravated assault Tuesday after prosecutors say two alleged surviving victims stepped up and offered testimony. The state maintains Kelly shot an “unarmed” man in the back “in an unprovoked attack as he ran for his life” more than 100 yards from Kelly’s residence.

The defense contends Kelly only fired “warning shots” into the air earlier that day after spotting a group of armed men moving through trees by his home on the ranch. A defense filing alleges one of the armed men “pointed an AK-47 right at” Kelly, who called a Border Patrol ranch liaison multiple times on Jan. 30. Prosecutors claim the group was not armed.

Larkin said there’s a “very large incentive structure for people to come forward and to have claimed to have been witnesses,” noting the expectation of immigration benefits, as well as “pressure from traffickers who have an interest in blaming this event on Mr. Kelly. Testimony is something that is bought and sold by drug traffickers the same way that drugs and people are bought and sold.”

Judge Emilio Velasquez had upheld the $1 million bond, but agreed to convert it from cash to surety.

The Christian crowdsourcing site GiveSendGo took up the fundraising effort for Kelly after GoFundMe removed multiple pages set up by individuals who want to help the 73-year-old rancher.

“George and Wanda Kelly are so grateful for all your support and donations,” a post read Thursday on a GiveSendGo fundraiser titled, “Drop charges against Arizona Rancher George Kelly,” announcing the rancher’s release. “When we come together and stand up for what is right we MAKE a difference! They still have a long road ahead of them. Please continue to support George. God Bless.”

Judge Velasquez set the next hearing date for Friday despite the defense pleading for a continuance of 30 to 60 days to allow time to confer with experts and gather the forensic and ballistic evidence they say authorities have neglected to process.

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