More than 70 people were sealed in the back of the tractor trailer that Tyrone Williams abandoned during the smuggling attempt in May 2003. Williams received life sentences for each of the 19 deaths, 34 years on a conspiracy charge and another 20 years for each count of transporting the aliens.
U.S. Assistant Attorney Daniel Rodriquez says the prison time is justified because of the nature of the crime.
"We treat people, whether they are from this country or not, this country will recognize the right of every human being's right to existence and punish you accordingly. And that's what we were trying to do in this case is send out a message.
Defense Attorney Craig Washington says this is just the end of the beginning.
"The next stage is to appeal and I believe in my heart that you guys will be standing on the sidewalk three years from now when this case comes back from the United States Supreme Court and we will be talking about it in a different way."
Washington maintains that the law Williams was tried under is unconstitutional. Williams was also fined $150,000 plus additional court fees. The prosecution asked the judge to impose a rule so that Williams would not be able to benefit from any book or television deal to tell his story. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.