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Hannity

Attorney Who Prosecuted Ex-Border Agents for Shooting Drug Smuggler Speaks Out

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," July 17, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNNY SUTTON, U.S. ATTORNEY: Their actions after the shooting showed that they knew that the shooting was illegal and destroyed the credibility of their later claims that the drug smuggler appeared to have a weapon as he ran away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: That was U.S. attorney Johnny Sutton earlier today, justifying his prosecution of Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean to a Senate sub-panel. The two agents are serving 11- and 12-year sentences for shooting and wounding a fleeing, unarmed Mexican drug smuggler.

Supporters of the agents want a full pardon for the men.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: Prosecutors decided to go after the good guys and gave the bad guy immunity. The prosecutors then, let us note, began to vilify the Border Patrol agents in order to justify their decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLMES: Joining us now, the man who prosecuted the agents, United States attorney Johnny Sutton. As you pointed out, Mr. Sutton, this is not about immigration. This is really about rule of law. Isn't it?

SUTTON: That's exactly right, Alan. You know, there's been so much misinformation and people trying to tie this into immigration debate. And really, it has to do with immigration. What it has to do with is law enforcement officers stepping out of their uniform, and into the position of literally trying to shoot to kill an unarmed drug smuggler who was running away.

My job is to enforce the law. This is a 2.5-week jury trial. It wasn't just something that my prosecutors invented out of their minds. I mean, we tried this case.

Those guys were convicted on the evidence, which was overwhelming, and they were punished by the laws that were set in place by Congress. And thankfully, today, I got to make that case with the American people. And hopefully, we'll get that information out.

COLMES: I guess the anger is the perception, as you're taking the word of an illegal immigrant over two enforcers of the law, and who are U.S. citizens. And that's why so many people, I guess, are angry about this.

SUTTON: Well, I wish they could have been at the trial and they would have seen it wasn't just the word of that dope dealer, illegal alien, who I would have loved to have put in prison and would be in prison, had Compean and Ramos done their job.

But much of what he said was corroborated by other agents at the scene, as well as the physical evidence. And frankly, the most damning piece of evidence was the cover-up. If that drug smuggler had a gun, there's no reason in the world the Border Patrol agent should cover it up.

They were acting as if he didn't have a gun at the scene, and that's what the jury heard. And that's why the jury convicted him.

COLMES: Let me ask you about this, though. And I understand everything you're saying. I truly understand and respect it. Even Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic senator from California, says that the sentence is too harsh, that these are men who never broke the law before.

Is it worth 12 years in jail for people with no previous record on this kind of a conviction?

SUTTON: Well, I agree with her that that is a harsh sentence, but that is a sentence that was set in place by Congress. Congress has made it very clear to prosecutors that we feel very strong about violent crimes committed with firearms. When they passed that law they did not make any exceptions for law enforcement.

And when a law enforcement officer steps over the line, not defending himself, but commits crimes against innocent people, then they're held to account, just like everybody else.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Senator Feinstein said this is a case a prosecutorial over charging in the case. And they strongly questioned why you and the other prosecutors, you know, charged the pair with using a weapon during the commission of a crime here when they were on their job, on top of giving immunity, and allowing the drug smuggler, who's here illegally, to testify against them? That's what this comes down to.

SUTTON: Well, and that's what the irony of this is. We're here not because of what my prosecutorial team did, but because these two agents committed crimes. If they had done their job, that drug smuggler would be in prison like all the other drug smugglers put there.

HANNITY: You know...

SUTTON: But wait, Sean, for just a second.

HANNITY: This is outrageous.

SUTTON: Look, they were acting like this guy, like this guy had a gun. We litigated at trial. He didn't. All the evidence pointed the other way, and...

HANNITY: You should be at the border. I've been there five times. Perhaps you should go down there and see how difficult it is for these border agents.

SUTTON: What are you talking about, Sean? My job is...

HANNITY: These guys...

SUTTON: That's my job. I'm in charge of 660 miles of border.

HANNITY: But these guys have to make split second decisions here, and in this particular case, what really outrages most Americans — you've got a drug smuggler, with over a million-dollar payload of marijuana, entering this country illegally, who gets immunity and testifies against the agents that were trying to do their job protecting Americans.

And these guys get 12 years in jail, and you go for the maximum, prosecuting them. People like me are outraged about this, and I do think these guys deserve a pardon in this case.

SUTTON: Well, I mean, Sean we testified to this today. Since I've been U.S. attorney, there's been 14 shootings in El Paso sector. Three of them were killings. There was another killing right before I became U.S. attorney. All of them cleared.

Chief Aguilar said today, chief of the Border Patrol, 144 agents shot people, used deadly force, in the last two years. None of those guys were prosecuted.

HANNITY: Where is the prosecutorial discretion? And the understanding that these guys, they don't know what is going on in this case.

First of all, it was a non-fatal shooting in the buttocks of a guy that had a million-dollar payload and entering the country illegally. And he becomes the guy that testifies against the agents. You don't see anything wrong with that? Or understand why people are upset about that?

SUTTON: What I'm trying to tell you is...

HANNITY: You're not answering that question. Do you not understand why people are upset? Dianne Feinstein, Duncan Hunter, John Cornyn, Sean Hannity, Dana Rohrabacher? You don't get that?

SUTTON: I do get it, because you don't understand the facts. What a jury — what a west Texas jury.

HANNITY: Only you do, I get it.

SUTTON: We were there, Sean. My people tried the case. A west Texas jury doesn't convict law enforcement officers on a whim. They only convict people when the evidence is overwhelming. These guys committed serious crimes. This was not a split-second decision.

HANNITY: You know what, though? If you get your conviction...

SUTTON: They shot an unarmed guy, and they covered it up. Look, Sean, listen.

HANNITY: Wait a minute. Let me address that. He said they perhaps deserved a reprimand, and a reprimand was turned into a felony. And then people that you used to convict these agents are people — they get immunity that will say anything that were drug dealers. And they don't even get charged. Why do the — and he was flown back into the United States for testimony. An illegal immigrant drug dealer. That's insane in my mind.

SUTTON: Look, if you had been in El Paso, you know that Juarez is right across the river. You don't fly, you walk. Second of all, this guy was given immunity because these agents screwed up the case so bad it was impossible for us to prosecute him.

COLMES: All right.

SUTTON: We're prosecuting them for the crime they did. They got the punishment that Congress set. That's the fact.

COLMES: Mr. Sutton, we thank you for coming on our show tonight. Thank you for your time, sir.

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