A Public Shame
If you do your job diligently there is a good chance you may wind up in jail. That’s what has happened to Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean.
In February 2005, the agents tried to stop a van driven by drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila near the Mexico border. After a scuffle with Compean, Aldrete-Davila fled on foot. Ramos says he believes that he saw a gun — which the smuggler denies. Both agents fired at Aldrete-Davila, who fell, then continued his escape across the border. After he got away, Ramos and Compean filed a report on the 743 pounds of marijuana they found in the van, but not on the gunfire. As it turns out, Ramos had shot Aldrete-Davila in the butt.
Returning to Mexico, Aldrete-Davila related his misfortunes to his mother, who contacted the mother-in-law of Border Patrol agent Rene Sanchez. Sanchez in turn tipped off a member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, who went to Mexico to offer immunity if Osbaldo would act as a state’s witness against Ramos and Compean: the feds wanted to prosecute the agents shooting the alien narcotics supplier.
To sweeten the immunity deal, the feds paid for Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila’s medical treatment of his ailing backside – a taxpayer-funded recuperation at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas. He showed his gratitude by breaking his immunity agreement in October 2005, when officers say he attempted to smuggle 1,000 pounds of marijuana into America. The prosecution further extended its immunity to this felony and sealed the indictment from jurors. Aldrete-Davila repaid this new shower of grace by suing the federal government for $5 million, alleging the shooting violated his civil rights. However, he agreed to help in their criminal prosecution, as well, and the feds are apparently happy to collaborate with the pusher as long as he helped put effective lawmen behind bars.
U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, a Bush appointee, prosecuted the agents. In March, a jury found them guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon, discharge of a firearm during a violent crime, obstructing justice, lying about the incident and willfully violating Aldrete-Davila’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from illegal seizure.
Because there was gunfire, the mandatory-minimum prison sentence the agents will serve is 10 years. As for Aldrete-Davila, he faces no charges for the 743 pounds of pot. That leaves him free to carry out his plan to sue the Border Patrol — that is, U.S. taxpayers — for $5 million because his civil rights were violated. What a country.
Ramos, who was nominated Border Patrol Agent of the year in 2005, told the San Bernardino County Sun, “There’s murderers and child rapists that are looking at less time than me.”
At the heart of the prosecution is a vehicle-pursuit policy that makes absolutely no sense. As Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Kanof explained to the Sun, “It is a violation of Border Patrol regulations to go after someone who is fleeing.” It’s like a no-arrest policy.
No surprise, Border Patrol agents routinely ignore the regs. As Ramos responded to Kanof: “How are we supposed to follow the Border Patrol strategy of apprehending terrorists or drug smugglers if we are not supposed to pursue fleeing people? Everybody who’s breaking the law flees from us. What are we supposed to do? Do they want us to catch them or not?”
I will answer that question. No, they do not want you to catch them. It is one of the things I do not understand about this Administration. There is no will to enforce the border, protect our sovereignty and prevent the admission of illegal immigrants or substances.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the case, as she fears this prosecution may represent “a serious miscarriage of justice.” It definitely does.
Sutton’s office cannot comment on the case until sentencing, but referred me to a statement, that explains, “They were prosecuted because they had fired their weapons at a man who had attempted to surrender, but, while his open hands were held in the air, Agent Compean attempted to hit the man with the butt of his shotgun.” Later, the agents picked up shell casings and failed to file a gunfire report.
Sutton’s best point: A jury found the two agents guilty of all charges except attempted murder. As Bonner sees it, the most punishment the agents deserve is a five-day suspension for not reporting the shooting. Say, for argument’s sake, that the agents were wrong to shoot at Aldrete-Davila. They were wrong to not file a report. Discipline them. Fire them, even. But don’t send them to prison for decades for a bad split-second decision and failure to file a report.
If they were crooks, they would serve shorter time. Last month, a Border Patrol agent, who admitted to smuggling 100 illegal immigrants while he served on the Border Patrol, got five years. (Prosecutors had recommended three years, but in San Diego, U.S. District Judge John Houston hiked the sentence, telling the man: “You violated the sacred trust of your comrades. As a link in the chain, they depended on you.”)
Compean’s attorney, Maria Ramirez said that her client, a first-generation American, served honorably in the U.S. Navy, then worked for the Border Patrol. He had a home, now sold, a wife and two children. Another child is on the way. But in the 15 minutes after the agents saw that van, after one split-second judgment call, his life melted away: “In 15 minutes it’s gone, just gone.”
The two U.S. Border Patrol agents were sentenced to prison terms of 11 years and 12 years for shooting a drug-smuggling suspect in the buttocks as he fled across the U.S.-Mexico border.
U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone in El Paso, Texas, sentenced Jose Alonso Compean to 12 years in prison and Ignacio Ramos to 11 years and one day despite a plea by their attorney for a new trial after three jurors said they were coerced into voting guilty in the case, the Washington Times reported.
The two agents started 11- and 12-year prison terms, respectively, on January 17, for the crime of putting one bullet in the buttocks of the admitted drug smuggler, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, and failing to report the discharge of their firearms. The non-fatal bullet didn’t stop the smuggler from running to escape in a van waiting for him on the Mexican side of the border.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher called the two agents heroes. “Because of their actions, more than a million dollars in illegal drugs were stopped from being sold to our children. Bringing felony charges against them is a travesty of justice beyond description.”
The White House and the U.S. Department of Justice are stonewalling requests for a presidential pardon from 55 Members of Congress and U.S. citizens who have sent at least 160,000 petitions and 15,000 faxes. When the Bush Administration deigns to respond at all, the official line is that the Border Patrol agents got a fair trial.
But that’s not true; they didn’t get a fair trial. They were convicted because the Justice Department sent investigators into Mexico, tracked down the drug smuggler, and gave him immunity from all prosecution for his drug smuggling crimes if he would please come back and testify against Ramos and Compean.
It was massively unfair to give immunity to an illegal alien narcotics trafficker while destroying the lives and families of two Border Patrol agents who risked their lives to stop him. Ramos and Compean were convicted mainly on the testimony of the immunity-sheltered drug smuggler, whose integrity should have been called into question, but Ramos and Compean were forbidden to do that during the trial.
Ramos and Compean were doing what they thought was their job – preventing a drug dealer from illegally crossing the border with illegal substances. Yes, they failed to report the fact that they fired their weapon. Yes, they gave chase to the illegal, which they were told they shouldn’t do. Ok, they broke some rules. Give them six months in jail – but to sentence them to 11 and 12 years is a gross miscarriage of justice.
I understand the the judge had no choice because the mandatory Federal sentence for this is 10 years. Fine, but where is the Presidential pardon?
According to Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) in House Resolution 1030:
To say that Ramos and Compean have been treated unjustly and unfairly is an understatement. Adding insult to injury, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has granted immunity to the Mexican drug dealer, the smuggler who these two officers intercepted. This criminal alien was caught with 743 pounds of marijuana, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office has treated this criminal as if he were a victim.
At the same time, the book was thrown at our border patrol agents. I will submit for the RECORD, Mr. Speaker, my letter to the Attorney General regarding this outrageous case. The brutal treatment of the two border guards has demoralized our Border Patrol agents. I hope as we sing our praises today, that we understand that we are, yes, grateful to all of these people who protect us at the border, including the two Border Patrol agents that are now under attack.
In the meantime, let the case of Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean be revisited and the outrageous criminal charges against them dropped.
The Washington Times on January 10, 2007 reports,
Republican House members yesterday asked President Bush to keep two U.S. Border Patrol agents out of prison pending their appeal of convictions for shooting a suspected drug smuggler in the buttocks as he fled into Mexico.
“Several discrepancies in the government’s case strongly question whether justice has been served, and permitting these men to be incarcerated in the interim puts their lives at risk,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California said at a Capitol Hill press conference.
“We’re going to find out whose side you’re on, the American people or the side of our enemies,” Mr. Rohrabacher said in a reference to Mr. Bush. “If you let these two men go to jail for defending us, then we’ll know you’re on the side of our enemies.”
He was joined by Reps. Duncan Hunter of California, Ted Poe of Texas, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, Joe Wilson of South Carolina and Tom Tancredo of Colorado.
In lieu of a pardon, a letter petitioning Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales was presented during the press conference asking the Justice Department to direct federal prosecutors not to oppose a motion filed in a Texas court to keep the agents free on bond during the appeals process.
This is an outrageous miscarriage of justice. These men were protecting their country and doing what they were hired to do. I suggest that everyone who agrees with that statement do two things that will make a difference:
1) Phone the White House and let them know how you feel. The phone number is: (202) 456-1111.
2) Write to President Bush asking him to pardon Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean. A letter sent by U.S. mail is more effective than a fax, an email or any other form of communication.
**UPDATE - We received this post in an email not knowing at the time it originally came from Gary Aminoff's blog which you can read by clicking here.