Photo: AP

On Tuesday, Joseph “Rambo” Hunter, international drug lord Paul Le Roux’s former enforcer, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to murder a federal drug agent and a government informer. Before becoming a mercenary, Hunter served in the U.S. Army for two decades.

According to the New York Times, Hunter was honorably discharged from the military in 2004; he’d worked as a sniper instructor and senior drill sergeant. After the Army, Hunter worked for private contractors in Iraq, and, in 2009, he fell in with Le Roux, a mysterious (and violent) South African computer programmer and cartel boss.

The DEA captured Le Roux in a secret operation in Liberia in September 2012; since then, he has been cooperating with the government as an informant, and helped set up Hunter’s arrest in Thailand in 2013. From the Times:

In late 2012, as part of the sting operation, Mr. Hunter began assembling a security team for what he had been led to believe were Colombian narcotics traffickers but were actually confidential sources working under the direction of the D.E.A., the government has said. The following March, he told team members that they would have the opportunity to do “bonus work” — that is, assassinations — for which they would be paid extra, prosecutors said.

In May 2013, the government said, Mr. Hunter was asked if his team would carry out the killings of the drug agent and the informer, who was said to be a boat captain who had been providing tips to the D.E.A. “My guys will handle it,” Mr. Hunter responded, asking if he would receive a financial bonus as well.

“He approached this murder plot as meticulously and thoroughly as he approached his legitimate work in his military career,” Judge Laura Taylor Swain of Federal District Court said before she sentenced Mr. Hunter.

Hunter’s attorneys argued that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which led him to work for Le Roux. “I have seen…comrades die, I have received mortar fire several times per week for an extended period of time, I have received sniper fire,” he wrote in a handwritten letter to Swain. “Any soldier that shows mental or physical weakness is put on a track that would definitely lead him to be dismissed or hurt his military service.”

The judge did not accept this argument. “The safety of law enforcement agents, those helping them and of innocent people,” she said Tuesday, “depends on right choices, even if those choices are life or death choices.”

“As between killing someone sworn to uphold the law,” she added, “and risking his own demise at the hands of people he had chosen to join in criminal activity, Mr. Hunter made the dishonorable choice.”