A Truck Driver who attempted to smuggle about 39 illegal immigrants packed in a semi-trailer resulting in the death of 10 of them, pleaded guilty to Human Smuggling charges on Monday in a San Antonio court, the New York Times reported.

James Matthew Bradley Jr pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and another count of transporting illegal immigrants, resulting in death. Bradley, 61, will be sentenced on January 22 and faces life behind bars.

If Bradley had decided to go to trial, he would have faced the death penalty if found guilty. When he first appeared to answer to the charges, last month, Bradley had pleaded not guilty.

His change of mind could have been due to a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty and get life in prison instead.

The attempted smuggling

According to authorities who investigated the case, at least 39 immigrants, the majority being Mexicans, were packed into a trailer which police later found parked outside a Walmart store.

The truck, which Bradley drove, did not have a working air-conditioning system, which proved fatal as the immigrants were unable to breathe, as the sweltering July heat climbed to 101 degrees.

According to reports by the New York Times, some of the survivors estimated there could have been up to 200 people in the back of the ill-fated truck at some point.

The immigrants tried to get the attention of Bradley when they started suffocating, but by the time he stopped, eight were already dead, and two succumbed while receiving treatment at a hospital.

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A Walmart employee alerted the police when some of the survivors stumbled into the store begging for water.

Bradley's accomplice to be charged

Bradley's co-defendant, 47-year-old Pedro Silva Segura, who is also an illegal immigrant, will also have his day in court to answer to two charges of conspiracy, transporting illegal immigrants for financial gain, resulting in death and causing grievous bodily harm to others, among other charges.

Segura was denied bail as he is considered a flight risk and is currently being held in Laredo, with a trial date yet to be determined. He will stand trial in San Antonio.

Investigators were pleased with the admission of guilt, with the special agent in charge of Homeland investigations in San Antonio, Shane Folden, saying that one chapter had been closed on the deadly smuggling incident.

Efforts by the New York Times to get comments from Bradley's lawyer and the federal prosecutor were fruitless, as none of them responded to the requests.