Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Case Of Injustice For Compean And Ramos

The Associated Press is reporting that President George W. Bush has granted pardons to 14 individuals and commuted the prison sentences of two others convicted of misdeeds ranging from drug offenses to tax evasion, from wildlife violations to bank embezzlement.

The crimes committed by those on the pardon list also include dubious offenses involving hazardous waste, food stamps, and the theft of government property.

Meanwhile, as fourteen people are granted pardons by the president, border patrol agents, Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos sit in solitary confinement, in a medium security federal prision serving time for just trying to do their difficult jobs in securing the United States border with Mexico.

The fact is that Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean are currently serving terms of 11 and 12 years respectively on their outrageous convictions for shooting an illegal alien drug smuggler.

The agents were guarding the United States border near El Paso, Texas on February 17, 2005. Checking on a tripped sensor near the river, Border Agent Compean discovered footprints and drag marks, a tip-off that a load of drugs has just been smuggled across the river. Spotting a vehicle leaving the scene, Compean radioed the vehicle's description to agents covering the road ahead.

Realizing he's been spotted, the smuggler turned around and headed back toward Compean. When the smuggler bailed out of his van to make a run for the river, he failed to obey Compean's numerous commands to stop. After a brief physical struggle with the Agent, the smuggler began running toward the river again.

When the smuggler turned around and pointed something shiny at Compean, the agent believing his life was in danger opened fire. Agent Ramos, hearing gunshots, came to Compean's aid. He, too, shouted for the smuggler to stop, but the man once again turned around and pointed at Ramos. Ramos fired one shot at the smuggler.

He appeared to miss, and his target turned and disappeared into the bank of the Rio Grande. Later it was discovered that the drug smuggler was wounded in the buttock by the shot. The Border Patrol agents returned to the suspicious van and looked inside at almost 800 lbs. of marijuana, worth about $1 million on the street, in the cabin.

U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton would later decide that the illegal alien drug smuggler was the real victim in the case and he filed attempted murder charges against the two border agents. He never brought charges against the drug smuggler. Instead, Sutton granted the known illegal alien drug smuggler immunity and a temporary visa in his effort to prosecute the two agents.

On March 8, 2006, a federal jury convicted the two agents of assault with serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and civil rights violations.

However, that jury verdict was in question as well. According to the National Border Patrol Council, "Three of the 12 jurors later submitted sworn affidavits alleging that they had been misled into believing that there could be no dissent in the decision of the jury, and that the minority would have to accede to the will of the majority. Despite this cloud over the propriety of the process, the judge refused to overturn the verdict."

On appeal, the 5th Circuit Appeals Court upheld a mandatory minimum 10-year prison sentences for “discharging a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence.” This law, known as Section 924(c) of the U.S. Code, has always been interpreted to apply to criminals, not law enforcement officers engaged in their official duties.

The cases of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean are now before the DOJ’s Pardon Attorney Donald Rodgers, who works in consultation with the attorney general’s office to assist the president. The president has sole power of clemency in federal cases under the Constitution, and will make the decision, no matter what the Office of Pardon Attorney recommends.

As for the alleged victim in this case, illegal alien and drug smuggler, Aldrete-Davila. Well, he pleaded guilty last May in federal court to multiple drug charges. All were crimes that occurred after the above episode, and thus are not covered by the immunity agreement. Aldrete-Davila was charged with two counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, one count of conspiracy to import a controlled substance and one count of conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

This case of injustice for Compean and Ramos has gone on long enough. These two border patrol agents need to be pardoned by President Bush. They are the real victims in a case that compromises the integrity of United States Homeland Security as well as the American Legal system.

1 comment:

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