Friday, June 22, 2007



Two US Border Patrol agents began serving 12 and 11 year sentences in February 2007 for the shooting of a Mexican national. Border Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean were charged with first degree murder by US Attorney Johnny Sutton. The President of the US Border Patrol Union, T. J. Bonner said the 11,000 member union has given a “no confidence” vote to border patrol chief David Aguilar.

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. . Border Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean were charged with first degree murder by US Attorney Johnny Sutton. The President of the US Border Patrol Union, T. J. Bonner said the 11,000 member union has given a “no confidence” vote to border patrol chief David Aguilar.

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.
A federal jury convicted Compean, 28, and Ramos, 37, in March after a two-week trial on charges of causing serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and a civil rights violation.
Ramos is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Naval Reserve and a former nominee for Border Patrol Agent of the Year.
On Feb. 17, 2005, he responded to a request for back up from Compean, who noticed a suspicious van near the levee road along the Rio Grande River near the Texas town of Fabens, about 40 miles east of El Paso.
Ramos, who headed toward Fabens hoping to cut off the van, soon joined a third agent already in pursuit.
Behind the wheel of the van was an illegal alien, Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila of Mexico. Unknown to the growing number of Border Patrol agents converging on Fabens, Aldrete-Davila's van was carrying 800 pounds of marijuana.
Unable to outrun Ramos and the third agent, Aldrete-Davila stopped the van on the levee, jumped out and started running toward the river. When he reached the other side of the levee, he was met by Compean who had anticipated the smuggler's attempt to get back to Mexico.
"At some point during the time where I'm crossing the canal, I hear shots being fired," Ramos said. "Later, I see Compean on the ground, but I keep running after the smuggler."
At that point, Ramos said, Aldrete-Davila turned toward him, pointing what looked like a gun.
"I shot," Ramos said. "But I didn't think he was hit, because he kept running into the brush and then disappeared into it. Later, we all watched as he jumped into a van waiting for him. He seemed fine. It didn't look like he had been hit at all."
More than two weeks after the incident, Christopher Sanchez, an investigator with the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General, received a call from a Border Patrol agent in Wilcox, Ariz. The agent's mother-in-law had received a call from Aldrete-Davila's mother in Mexico telling her that her son had been wounded in the buttocks in the shooting.
Sanchez followed up with a call of his own to the smuggler in Mexico.
In a move that still confuses Ramos and Compean, the U.S. government filed charges against them after giving full immunity to Aldrete-Davila and paying for his medical treatment at an El Paso hospital.
At trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Kanof told the court that the agents had violated an unarmed Aldrete-Davila's civil rights.
"The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it is a violation of someone's Fourth Amendment rights to shoot them in the back while fleeing if you don't know who they are and/or if you don't know they have a weapon," said Kanof.
Kanof dismissed Ramos' testimony that he had seen something shiny in the smuggler's hand, saying that the agent couldn't be sure it was a gun he had seen.
Further, Kanof argued, it was a violation of Border Patrol policy for agents to pursue fleeing suspects.
"Agents are not allowed to pursue. In order to exceed the speed limit, you have to get supervisor approval, and they did not," she told the Daily Bulletin.
The Texas jury came back with a guilty verdict. Conviction for discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence has an automatic 10-year sentence. The other counts have varying punishments.
"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?" said Ramos, who noted that he only did on that day what he had done for the previous 10 years. "Everybody who's breaking the law flees from us. What are we supposed to do? Do they want us to catch them or not?"
"This is the greatest miscarriage of justice I have ever seen," said Andy Ramirez of the nonprofit group Friends of the Border Patrol. "This drug smuggler has fully contributed to the destruction of two brave agents and their families and has sent a very loud message to the other Border Patrol agents: If you confront a smuggler, this is what will happen to you."
The El Paso Sheriff's Department increased its patrols around the Ramos home when the family received threats from people they believed were associated with Aldrete-Davila.
Agent Ramos was assaulted one week after entering prison by about five illegal immigrants who were yelling at him in Spanish, 'Maten a la migra' — which means 'kill the Border Patrol agent,'" one family member said, according to, a group that has petitioned President Bush to pardon the two agents and has been working with the agents' families. and Ramos' family dispute the prison report saying he suffered minor injuries. in a press release says Ramos suffered "multiple and severe injuries." The release also said that a family member claims Ramos' attackers beat him with repeated blows and kicks and that he suffered wounds to his back, shoulder, arms and head.
"Our government has betrayed these agents," said Grassfire president Steve Elliott. "And now they have put these men in mortal danger. I am frightened for the lives of these two family men. This is beyond outrage, and I am calling on grassroots Americans to express their outrage directly to the White House — demanding the president pardon agents Ramos and Compean before it's too late."
Bonner said Ramos believes that he was assaulted by four or five people and that his injuries are more than 'minor."
"I believe him more than I believe the Department of Justice and its attempt to minimize this," Bonner said. "After all, this is the same Department of Justice that's tried to cover up the facts surrounding the" case, he added.
The two agents' supporters — which include a slew of lawmakers on Capital Hill — claim the Justice Department and prosecutor Johnny Sutton did not appropriately handle the case.
Ramos and Compean were found guilty by a jury of not only shooting Aldrete-Davila, but also of trying to cover up the incident. Supporters say it was wrong for Sutton to go after the border agents and not the drug dealer who was given immunity for testifying against them, and that the Justice Department has been less than forthcoming about certain facts surrounding the case.
In response to the reports of the prison assault, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., wrote to President Bush requesting an investigation into the incident. The letter also requested that Bureau of Prisons Director Harley Lappin be discharged from his position if it's discovered that the proper precautions were not taken to protect Ramos.
"Placing these two agents in general population, especially when assuring Congress it would not happen, constitutes an enormous dereliction of duty by the Administration and the Bureau of Prisons," said the letter to Bush. "The families of agents Compean and Ramos deserve an immediate response. Further, please ensure that segregation from general population occurs immediately."
Hunter requested that both agents be put in isolation for their own safety. He and others were concerned that if jailed with many of the illegal immigrants and drug runners they helped put away, the safety and well-being of Ramos and Compean would be threatened.
"The assault against agent Ramos clearly demonstrates the severe risk involved with incorporating Border Patrol agents into general prison populations," Hunter said. "An overwhelming number of federal inmates are non U.S. citizens who have been apprehended by the Border Patrol. The danger to agents Compean and Ramos was immediately apparent and the attack against agent Ramos could have been prevented."
Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., said he spoke to several of Ramos' family members. The Ramos family wasn't aware of the situation, when they called him to wish him well on his 38th birthday. Ramos told his family that he was attacked by five men who beat him severely for being a former law enforcement agent.
Tancredo said one of the assailants has been identified by Ramos and is now being charged with assault.
"The administration has for too long turned their back on law enforcement and left them to fend for themselves," Tancredo said. "These men have been the victims of what the Bush administration’s border enforcement policy has always been. Mr. President, pardon these men now."
Bonner said Ramos likely asked to be put in general population because when in isolation, inmates are only allowed one phone call a month. Isolated prisoners also normally are in lockdown for 23 hours a day and only allowed out for one hour.
"Why they couldn't bend that rule given the fact they have law enforcement agent in custody … you kind of go stir crazy" in isolation, Bonner said.
"I don't blame him [Ramos], I blame the folks in charge for not being reasonable about that. One phone call a month sounds like punishment to me for someone who's been acting up. But here's a guy you're putting in isolation because you need to protect him."
Poe agreed, saying that it's Ramos' choice whether he wants to be put in isolation or general population, but wherever he is, it's the job of the federal government and the prison to ensure his safety.
"It's just another example that the federal government doesn't protect Border Patrol agents on the border and doesn't protect them in prison," Poe said.
"The prison authorities, especially the federal prison system, are experts at protecting inmates from harm from other inmates ... they've been doing this for years. Why aren't they protecting Ramos?"
"We just want him to be safe — that's our main concern right now," Loya said. "Hopefully they'll move him out of there and put him in minimum security."
The Compean family released a statement saying he is in isolation by choice. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Compean is serving his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton, Ohio, a low-security facility housing male offenders. He was offered a chance to join general population, but he rejected that idea because he feared for his safety, the family said.
"This attack only reinforces why they must be kept isolated from a prison's general population," the family said in the statement.
"Being a law enforcement officer, especially knowing they are Border Patrol agents, only adds to the threat and danger they face while in prison. This is why they cannot be out of isolation. We must all take this threat seriously if we hope to see them leave prison alive."

There is great discontent among Border Patrol agents. Nationwide, attacks against agents since October 2006 have risen 3 percent over the same period a year earlier. In the Yuma Sector of western Arizona attacks have jumped 56 percent. This area is a hot bed of smuggling activity.


ichbinalj said...

On July 17 California Senator Dianne Feinstein chaired hearings of a Judiciary Committee panel on the imprisonment of U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.

They were arrested following a shooting incident along the Rio Grande River in Texas on Feb. 17, 2005. Mexican national Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila entered the country illegally in a van carrying 743 pounds of marijuana. When confronted by the two agents, he scuffled with them and tried to flee back across the border. The agents opened fire. Aldrete-Davila was struck in the buttocks, but continued to flee.
Ramos and Compean were convicted on several charges, including assault with a deadly weapon, obstruction of justice — for failing to properly report the incident — and a civil rights violation, although they were acquitted of the most serious offense, assault with intent to commit murder.
Feinstein has joined several Republicans in saying that their jail terms were outrageous.

ichbinalj said...

Feinstein noted at the hearing that "despite his immunity, Aldrete-Davila refused to provide any information on his drug source and refused to provide the names of others who talked about putting together a hunting party that would retaliate for the shooting . . .

"We have also learned that Aldrete-Davila reentered the United States on at least 10 other occasions between March and November 2005 and that the documentation provided by the federal government allowed him to cross the border legally at any time without notifying anyone in the government ahead of time."
The case of Ramos and Compean has also been championed by two Republican congressmen from California, Dana Rohrabacher and presidential candidate Duncan Hunter.

Rohrabacher expressed shock that Johnny Sutton, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, when faced with prosecuting a known drug dealer or the alleged criminal border agents, chose to go after the agents.

Sutton is known as one of the country's most aggressive prosecutors who has done a good job dealing with a huge border crime problem in his district. But his handling of this case raises some real concerns.

Rohrabacher said at the hearings: "In this case, the U.S. attorney's office decided to give immunity to a professional drug smuggler, accept his word that even though he was in possession of $1 million worth of drugs that he was unarmed, and then to throw the book at the Border Patrol agents, turning into a felony what should have been addressed at most by a five-day suspension for a violation of procedures.

"The prosecutors decided to go after the good guys and gave the bad guy immunity.

ichbinalj said...

Rep. Hunter called the prison sentences "extremely unjust," and said the agents should be pardoned. Adding to the injustice, Aldrete-Davila has now filed a $5 million civil lawsuit against the U.S., seeking damages based on the shooting.

Feinstein observed: "I hope to find out if the government considered asking Aldrete-Davila to waive his civil claims against the United States as part of an immunity deal. If not, why not?"

Responding to calls for a pardon for the two agents, President Bush said on July 19: "I know it's an emotional issue but people need to look at the facts. These men were convicted by a jury of their peers after listening to the facts" presented by prosecutor Sutton.

Bush appointed Sutton to his present post in 2001, and said he considers him a friend.
Feinstein said she would ask President Bush to commute the sentences of Ramos and Compean. It's worth noting the remarks of commentator and political speechwriter Doug Patton, who writes on the Web site:

"In the case of seeking justice for Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, the cooperation of conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats is necessary to persuade a recalcitrant president of the need for intervention. This may be the best example of productive bipartisanship we have witnessed in a long time."