Two ex-Border Patrol agents are sitting in prison — at least one in solitary confinement, isolated from a prison community that likely would do him harm — while they hope for a pardon from President Bush, a family member told FOXNews.com.
Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean turned themselves in to federal marshals in El Paso, Texas, last week to begin serving their 11 and 12 years, respectively, for the non-fatal shooting in the backside of a Mexican drug runner in February of 2005.
They were supposed to be held in an El Paso jail for a few days before being moved to separate low-security federal prisons. As of Tuesday, they were still not in federal custody.
Lawmakers and groups like the National Border Patrol Council had pushed for Ramos and Compean to be put in cells separate from other inmates for their own safety.
Ramos' father-in-law is quoted on the Web site WorldnetDaily.com as saying the agent is in solitary confinement, housed in a 6-by-12 foot cell with no bars or windows, just a door. Ramos' father would not comment to FOXNews.com about the conditions his son is in, but he did say he had not yet been able to visit him.
Compean's wife, Patty, however, confirmed to FOXNews.com that her husband was in solitary confinement, but said she still had not seen him, as she has been taking care of their four children, and snow in El Paso this week hampered her efforts.
"It's for his own safety from, you know, [from] the general population. Considering they were Border Patrol agents, you never know" what would happen if they were thrown in with other prisoners, Patty Compean said.
She said as far as she knew, Ramos was also in solitary confinement, but could not confirm it to FOXNews.com.
Patty Compean has been talking to her husband every day on the phone. She said he has stayed calm throughout the whole ordeal.
"He's still hopeful. He's calm, if that makes any sense. He's been calm from the beginning," she said. "The only thing he could tell me is he didn't do anything wrong. So he doesn't have a guilty conscience. … The rest of us, we're freaking out and he's like, calm, and we're like, 'how do you do it? How do you sleep at night?' He says, 'I didn't do anything wrong. That's how I sleep at night.'"
Ramos and Compean were charged with shooting at Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, who ran to Mexico after he was shot in the buttocks in February 2005. It was later found Aldrete was transporting over 700 pounds of marijuana while in the U.S. illegally. U.S. officials gave immunity to Aldrete for that drug run in exchange for his testimony against the two agents.
A jury found that Ramos and Compean not only shot at an unarmed Aldrete — although the agents claimed they thought he had a gun — but then tried to cover it up by picking up the shell casings and omitting details of the incident on their report.
The agents' plight has galvanized border security groups and other grassroots organizations, including dozens of lawmakers in Washington, who have been pushing Bush to pardon the men.
The president told a local FOX affiliate last week "there's a process for pardons" and the case has to work its way through the system. In an interview with KOFX-TV in El Pas, Texas, Bush said the White House will review the case, and he urged people to "take a sober look at the case."
"People need to take a tough look at the facts, the evidence a jury looked at, as well as the judge. And I will do the same thing," he said.
But those on the other end of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue said they've had no official word from the White House that a pardon was going to be given.
"There's a lot of speculation and a lot of people are talking about this particular issue. What we know is the president has agreed to revisit the matter and take another look at it. I think that's the important thing to take away from this. I don't know if any commitment has been made … [but] I think that's a significant step forward," said Joe Kasper, a spokesman for Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who last week introduced the Congressional Pardon for Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean Act, which as of Tuesday, had 76 cosponsors.
Hunter also contacted the Federal Bureau of Prisons to request the two agents be segregated from the general prison population for their own safety. Kasper noted that almost 30 percent of federal inmates are not U.S. citizens.
Without that separation, "essentially, they [Ramos and Compean] would be jailed with those they incarcerated over their careers as border patrol agents," he said.
Meanwhile, Ramos' attorney, Mary Stillinger, on Monday took aim at Johnny Sutton, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, who prosecuted the case.
Sutton last week released a five-page statement listing 10 "myths" surrounding the prosecution of Ramos and Compean, including that "the agents were just doing their jobs," "the government let a drug smuggler go free" and that "these border patrol agents should not have been prosecuted."
"The truth of this case is that Agents Ramos and Compean shot 15 times at an unarmed man who was running away from them and who posed no threat," Sutton said. "This office cannot ignore these agents' crimes just because the person they shot turned out to be a drug smuggler. Our system of justice requires a person be tried in a court of law before he is punished. We do not permit police officers to summarily punish those whom the officers think have committed crimes."
He added: "In order to maintain the rule of law, federal prosecutors cannot look the other way when law enforcement officers shoot unarmed suspects who are running away, then lie about it to their supervisors and file official reports that are false."
In her rebuttal, Stillinger on Monday said that "it is extremely important" to remember that Ramos and Compean acted separately and should not be considered one case.
Stillinger pointed out that her client fired his gun one time — the shot that actually hit Aldrete. Compean fired his gun 14 times. She said Ramos shot at Aldrete only after a confrontation between the drug runner and Compean, and after he saw something "shiny" in the Mexican's hands "that appeared to be a gun." After Ramos shot him, she said, Aldrete didn't fall but continued on to Mexico.
Stillinger also said Ramos did not destroy evidence, even though there was evidence at trial that Compean did. She also said Ramos wasn't questioned about the incident by anyone, even though several other agents heard the shots and a supervisor was on the scene later when they examined the van Aldrete was in. Plus, she said, Ramos never wrote a false report about the incident, because he didn't write a report at all.
As for the drug smuggler, Stillinger argued the government had information to prosecute him for carrying the 743 pounds of marijuana in his possession during the time if it wanted. A Border Patrol agent in Arizona who apparently was a family friend of Aldrete is the one who told federal authorities about the shooting. Stillinger said Aldrete could have been identified as the driver of the van by not only Ramos and Compean, but two other border agents, as well.
Stillinger said the defense filed a motion to unseal evidence in the case, but it was denied.
Friends of the Border Patrol also issued a rebuttal to Sutton, saying the prosecutor "has ignored all the facts ... and presented a total and complete distortion of the truth to the American people in order to build support for what is a false case and violation of the civil rights under the color of law as the prosecution should have been against Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, and not Border Patrol Agents Compean and Ramos."