Thursday , January 18, 2007
Two Texas Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting a Mexican drug runner in the backside while on duty turned themselves in to U.S. Marshals Wednesday.
There's still no word on whether President Bush will grant them a pardon.
Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean began serving 11- and 12-year prison sentences, respectively, for the February 2005 non-fatal shooting of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila.
Several groups, including Friends of the Border Patrol, The Minutemen and Grassfire.org, have been trying through petitions to keep the agents out of prison — either by a motion to allow them to remain free on bond during an appeal or through a presidential pardon.
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone denied a motion for the two ex-agents to remain free on bond until their appeals on Tuesday.
"This ruling by Judge Cardone is the most disgraceful act that I have ever heard of in the history of our great nation and both she and the prosecutors should be ashamed of themselves for taking the word of a drug smuggler, caught in the act, while ignoring the facts," Friends of the Border Patrol Chairman Andy Ramirez wrote in a statement. "Evidence that would have severely damaged the credibility of the known drug smuggler, and exonerated Compean & Ramos was sealed and suppressed and the attorneys were prevented from mounting a proper defense."
Ramirez said El Paso Border Patrol chiefs Robert Gilbert and Luis Barker and Robert Gilbert have hung their agents out to dry.
"I must remind the public that narcotic traffickers and human smugglers laugh at law enforcement as they know that the Johnny Sutton's of DOJ will not prosecute them, and instead will prosecute officers who do their job and keep that poison off our streets and out of our schools, parks, and neighborhoods," Ramirez wrote.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., however, criticized the president for failing to come through with a pardon.
"This is the worst betrayal of American defenders I have ever seen," Rohrabacher said in an interview with WorldNetDaily. "It's shameful this was done by someone who is in the Republican Party. He obviously thinks more about his agreements with Mexico than the lives of American people and backing up his defenders."
Rohrabacher, along with a slew of other lawmakers — including Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, have been pursuing last-ditch efforts to free Ramos and Compean. Petitions with more than 225,000 signatures were delivered to the White House Tuesday afternoon.
"We expect some response from the White House shortly but we have not received anything yet," Poe told FOX News on Wednesday, adding that people should call the White House switchboard to voice support for the two agents.
The White House already has received "a lot" of phone calls from Americans on the issue, he said.
About a dozen rallies took place across the country in support of the agents last week.
"Grassroots support for these gentlemen is just through the roof," said Grassfire.org spokesman Ron De Jong. He said people signing the petitions are saying to themselves, "'something just doesn't add up' and they're starting to make great waves."
"We are extremely hopeful that the light of justice will shine and this wrong will be right, because otherwise it would be an absolute travesty if these gentlemen had to go to jail for doing their jobs," De Jong added.
Compean and Ramos were convicted by a jury last March of violating the civil rights of Davila when they shot him on Feb. 17, 2005, in Fabens, Texas, about 30 miles east of El Paso, then tampering with evidence by picking up shell casings from the shooting.
The ex-agents say Davila had a gun, and that's why they fired at him, but a gun was never found.
In exchange for his testimony against the two agents, Davila was granted immunity from prosecution by the U.S. government for attempting to smuggle nearly 750 pounds of marijuana, which had a street value of more than $1 million, into the United States on the day he was shot. He was treated in a U.S. hospital and is now suing the federal government for $5 million, Poe said.
"It's just an absurd case," Poe said Wednesday. "There's something weird about our government being so interested in making sure these two border guards go to prison. We hope to get to the bottom of what this is all about."
Several lawmakers, including Poe; Rohrabacher; Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.; and Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., last week sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking him to allow Ramos and Compean to remain free on bond pending the appeal of their convictions.
"The federal government was on the wrong side in this case. This drug dealer was not just bringing in a little bit of marijuana," Poe said. "Our federal government goes to Mexico, finds this drug dealer, gives him immunity ... they're [Ramos and Compean] being punished basically, for doing what they're supposed to do."
He added: "What better two people should be pardoned than border agents doing their jobs trying to protect the United States?"
Prosecutor: It Was a Cover-up
Last month, Bush issued 16 year-end pardons: Five cases involved drug crimes, while others involved bank fraud, mail fraud and the acceptance of a kickback.
In September 2005 the president pardoned 14 people, including a member of the mineworkers union who was convicted for his role in bombings at a West Virginia coal mine; a counterfeiter; several dealers of marijuana and LSD; and a bootlegger.
The president has pardoned 113 people since taking office in 2001.
White House spokesman Tony Snow last week would not comment specifically on pardon proceedings, but he said the facts presented in court showed that Ramos and Compean tried to cover up what occurred.
U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton issued a statement in response to allegations the agents were prosecuted for "just doing their job," saying "nothing could be further from the truth."
• Click here to read the prosecuting attorney's statement
"These agents shot someone who they knew to be unarmed and running away," Sutton said. "They destroyed evidence, covered up a crime scene and then filed false reports about what happened. It is shocking that there are people who believe it is OK for agents to shoot an unarmed suspect who is running away."
Sutton said that during the two-and-a-half-week trial, evidence showed that around 1 p.m. on Feb. 17, 2005, Davila initially ran from the agents, but tried to surrender with his empty hands raised after Compean pointed a shotgun at him. When Compean tried to push Davila to the ground with his gun, the agent tripped and fell. Davila then ran toward the Rio Grande River and Mexico. Compean chased Davila, firing at him with his pistol 14 times, pausing once to reload, Sutton said. Ramos shot once and struck Davila in the buttocks.
Neither agent made any further effort to apprehend him, Sutton said, and they threw away the fired shell casings and filed a false report omitting the confrontation.
"If Compean and Ramos truly believed Aldrete [Davila] was a threat, why did they abandon him after shooting him?" Sutton asked. "And if they truly believed the shooting was justified, why did they not report it, leave the scene undisturbed, and let the investigation absolve them? The answer to these questions are simple. The agents knew that Aldrete did not pose a threat as he fled, they knew the shooting was unjustified and unlawful, and they knew an investigation would incriminate them. So they chose to cover up their crimes."
Snow and Sutton have both pointed out that at the time Davila was originally pulled over, the agents didn't know he was an illegal alien, nor did they know he had over 700 pounds of marijuana in his truck. The agents also had arms training the day before the incident, so they knew what was required of them in the case of a shooting, they said.
"The facts of this case are such that I would invite everybody to take a full look at the documented record," Snow said. "This is not the case of the United States saying, 'We are not going to support people who go after drug dealers.' Of course, we are. We think it's incumbent to go after drug dealers, and we also think that it's vitally important to make sure that we provide border security so our people are secure.
"We also believe that the people who are working to secure that border themselves obey the law."
Compean, a married man with three children ages 12, 2 and 4 months — all of whom have been living with relatives since the incident — told FOXNews.com he's not worried so much about whether he will get the pardon but what will happen to his family when he's gone.
Compean said Border Patrol agents are trained when to use their weapons, and firing their weapons was warranted in this case.
"That's what we're trained to do — we see somebody armed — they're obviously not going to surrender, as what was stated in court, that he was trying to surrender and he was simply trying to get home. That wasn't the case," he said. "A lot of the other agents coming in now, they are afraid. They're afraid of drawing their weapons."