Monday, February 18, 2008

Should President Bush Pardon Border Patrol Agents Compean and Ramos?

For those not familiar with the incredible story surrounding Ignacio "Nacho" Ramos, 37, and Jose Alonso Compean, 28, I’ll repeat the facts as I understand them. Both of these men, Compean and Ramos, were employed by the United States Government as Border Patrol agents. And, they had taken an oath to serve and protect the citizens of this great nation.

On February 17, 2005, Compean and Ramos were patrolling the area around the small Texas town of Fabens, which is located about 30 miles Southeast of El Paso.
Fabens is also located just off of Interstate Highway 10 and it isn’t that far away from the Rio Grande River and the Texas-Mexican border.

Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila was an illegal alien from Mexico and he was also a career criminal (drug smuggler) too. He was driving a van full of 743 pounds of marijuana when Agent Compean tried to stop him. This was at approximately one o'clock in the afternoon. Agent Compean chased Aldrete-Davila's vehicle and then when the subject jumped out of the van and he tried to run back towards nearby Mexico, Compean chased him on foot too. He ordered the subject to stop, but he didn't. The subject jumped into a steep ditch filled with dirty water and this is when Compean apparently caught up with him and confronted him. According to Agent Compean a struggle ensued and the suspect pushed him down and assaulted him. The Border Patrol agent called for help and Agent Ramos was the first one too arrive. More agents arrived later.

When Agent Ramos arrived at the scene he saw Agent Compean on the ground bleeding and the suspect Aldrete-Davila still resisting arrest. As the subject ran away from Compean he appeared to have something shiny in his hand and both agents thought this may have been a handgun. Aldrete-Davila kept looking over his shoulder at them and the agents thought he was going to shoot at them. Because they both felt threatened, they now fired at the still fleeing subject. According to the press release from the Office of U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, dated August 11,
2006, Agent Compean is believed to have fired approximately fifteen (15) rounds from his weapon and Agent Ramos fired just one (1). Although Aldrete-Davila was hit once in the buttocks he still managed to get away. But, because of the dedicated efforts of these two Border Patrol agents, almost 800 pounds of marijuana was seized and eventually destroyed.

This is where the facts get a little muddied. And, to be honest, it sounds as if Compean, and maybe Ramos too, definitely did do some things that were indeed questionable, if not downright improper. First of all, both of them did not file a report of their gunfire. I'm not quite sure what their eventual explanation was, but it sounds as if they said that because other agents were on the scene and because they thought these other agents reported the events surrounding the shooting, they didn't. This is a stupid explanation and both men should have been honest and did reports detailing exactly what happened. Secondly, Agent Compean picked up his spent shells from the scene (Ramos did not). Again, according to the press release from U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton's Office, Agent Compean did not recover all of his spent shell casings from the bullets he had fired. He only recovered nine (9) spent casings. Later, Compean told another Border Patrol agent about the shooting and the missing casings, and this other agent found five (5) more casings which he threw away instead of turning them into evidence, which is the proper thing to do.

I don't know what U.S. Border Patrol policy is, but one article I read said that it is a violation of Border Patrol regulations to chase after someone who is fleeing. What I read also said that no matter what the offense, Border Patrol agents should not chase after fleeing subjects. I admit, as a career police officer myself, I can't imagine such an absurd rule really being a requirement. But, this is apparently what one Assistant U.S. Attorney said. Okay, so it definitely seems that Ramos and Compean violated several Border Patrol policies and procedures. And, if they did, then I agree they should be disciplined, and maybe even be terminated. But, other than a possible charge of Tampering with Evidence (or whatever the Feds call it), I don't believe Ramos and Compean should have been prosecuted. But, that's exactly what eventually happened.

When Aldrete-Davila got back to Mexico, with a Border Patrol bullet still in his butt, he told his mother about what had happened. She apparently knew someone who was related to another Border Patrol agent, and mommy called that person. This other agent apparently contacted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and they sent people down to Mexico to meet with Aldrete-Davila. Initially, he was supposedly reluctant to cooperate, but then they offered him immunity if he would be a witness against Border Patrol Agents Compean and Ramos. The Department of Homeland Security wanted to prosecute these two agents for shooting the illegal alien drug smuggler.

And, to make the immunity deal even more appealing to our drug smuggler, the feds even paid for the medical treatment that Aldrete-Davila received, reference his gunshot wound in the butt. This U.S. taxpayer-financed recuperation occurred at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas. One thing is for sure; Aldrete-Davila is no dummy! Why have just mediocre care in some Mexican clinic when you can have the best medical care right here in America, for FREE.

In 2006 Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean stood trial in federal court. The prosecution claimed that Agent Compean had called the illegal alien a "Mexican piece of shit." I don't know if this was before Aldrete-Davila was shot in the butt, or afterwards. The DHS tried their best to paint the two Border Patrol agents as out-of-control bloodthirsty racists. They even told one Texas Congressmen, who was concerned about this whole affair, that the agents had supposedly confessed that they "were out to shoot Mexicans." As far as I know there is NO proof of this supposed confession and the Inspector General's Office of the DHS hasn't provided any either. What is really ironic, and which tends to discredit the DHS theory that the agents were racists, is the fact that both Ramos and Compean are of Hispanic and/or Mexican descent themselves.

During the agent's trial the prosecutor claimed that Aldrete-Davila had actually attempted to surrender and he even had his open hands in the air. According to the prosecution's version, as told by career criminal Aldrete-Davila, Agent Compean tried to hit the suspect with the butt of his shotgun and this caused our illegal alien to take off running because he feared what the agents might do next. Apparently, when all of this was happening, and Aldrete-Davila had tried to surrender, he had been climbing out of a ditch. The prosecutor did not explain how our bad guy got into the ditch in the first place and I would assume he ran there as he tried to escape. The prosecutors also claimed that when Compean tried to hit the smuggler with his shotgun, Compean slipped and lost his footing and fell face down into the dirt and the brush. This is how the agent got bloodied and our poor unfortunate misunderstood illegal alien never laid a hand on him. After all, this career criminal had to much respect for the law to do something like that. Yeah, right!

When Aldrete-Davila testified under oath at the trial of the two agents he purposely lied. He described himself as only an "amateur" drug smuggler who was forced by his indigent state to drive this load of drugs to America. He also testified that he did not know who had hired him and he didn't even know where the stash house in America was located. He indicated he needed the money for his mother's medical bills and he also needed money so he could renew his commercial driver's license, apparently so he would be able to find legal work in Mexico.

This version by Aldrete-Davila was, of course, a fairy tale and the prosecutors knew it! As I said
before, Aldrete-Davila IS a career criminal so it shouldn't have been a big surprise when he showed his gratitude in October of 2005, by breaking his immunity agreement. That's when this bad guy was caught again as he tried to smuggle another load of marijuana into America. This time though, it was 1,000 pounds. What did the federal prosecutors do with their star witness? Absolutely nothing! Instead, they apparently extended his immunity to this new felony and they sealed the indictment from jurors. How did this jerk repay this latest pathetic gesture by the United States? He sued the federal government for $5 million alleging that when he was shot in the butt, while fleeing arrest, this violated his civil rights. Even with all of this, the U.S. Attorney's Office was still more than thrilled to have scum bag Aldrete-Davila be their star witness against Agents Compean and Ramos.

hris Antcliff, who was Compean's attorney, tried to keep the jury focused on just who exactly was the bad guy, and who were the good guys, in this twisted affair. "This case is a little upside down in my mind," attorney Antcliff reportedly told the jury. But, thanks to the prosecution's somewhat questionable efforts, the jury did not know about Aldrete-Davila's second drug offense. If they had, I'm sure they would have viewed the prosecution's star witness differently. The prosecution, and the DHS too, did their best to demonize the two agents and this, along with the mistakes and misdeeds the two agents had made, sealed their fate. The Texas jury convicted them of assault with serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, violating the "civil rights" (of an illegal alien drug smuggler) and obstruction of justice because they did not report that their weapons had been fired.

It has been reported that some of the Texas jurors broke down in tears when the verdicts were read. Three jurors, who were even named in the one article I read, came forward days before the October (2006) sentencing and said they had been holding out against a guilty verdict. They eventually voted with the majority after the other jurors told them the judge did not want (would not allow?) a hung jury. Changing their votes to guilty, according to one of these jurors, violated their consciences, but they did it anyway. What dribble! These three should have stood their ground, no matter what the rest of the jurors did and/or wanted them to do. I guess none of these three had ever seen the 1957 movie "Twelve Angry Men" starring Henry Fonda. He wouldn't have wimped out as these three eventually did.

Apparently because of this new information about the three jurors originally wanting to vote for a not guilty verdict, there was a motion for a new trial. U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone denied this motion (Judge Cardone was a 2003 George W. Bush appointee).
Ignacio Ramos was sentenced to eleven (11) years in prison and Jose Compean received twelve (12) years. This is indeed a travesty of justice. As I said before, Compean and Ramos acted stupidly by not originally reporting the shooting, and Compean picking up his spent shells was also inexcusable. Both men deserved to be disciplined, and maybe even fired, but not prosecuted and sentenced to prison.

We should remember that there were only three eye-witnesses to this incident involving Ramos, Compean and Aldrete-Davila. Those three men are the only ones who really know what happened that day. The two Border Patrol agents deny that Aldrete-Davila had his hands in the air and that he was trying to surrender. Even with the agents own misdeeds, what makes Aldrete-Davila a more credible witness than Ramos and Compean? Up until this incident both men had been exemplary agents with spotless records and Ramos, who was a Navy veteran, had even been nominated for Border Patrol Agent of the Year.

The jurors also did not hear that according to some members of Aldrete-Davila's family, this "amateur" smuggler had been smuggling since the age of 14. They also indicated that Aldrete-Davila "wouldn't move drugs unless he had a gun on him." One family member even mentioned that he now bragged about all the money he was going to get as a result of his lawsuit against the United States Border Patrol. To be fair, I'm not really sure when this explosive information first became known and the reason the jury never heard it may have been because it wasn't known yet. But, it wasn't the federal prosecutors who eventually unearthed this information, it was a newspaper that was doing a series of articles about this whole affair. Shame on the federal government's investigators for not doing a more thorough investigation and learning of this information themselves.

Should President Bush pardon Compean and Ramos? I believe the only answer to this controversial question is: YES! In fact, I'm amazed that he hasn't done this already. Many members of Congress, Republicans AND Democrats, have called on the President to do this. Yet, he hasn't and his reasoning behind his refusal to do what seems like the right and fair thing to do is indeed baffling to many. I'm not an anti-Bush person, in fact I voted for him twice, but I think it is very hypocritical of him to commute the sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, but then let Compean and Ramos continue to rot in prison. "Scooter" Libby was sentenced to thirty months in prison but then, within hours of his conviction, President Bush commuted his sentence so he wouldn't have to serve any time in prison. Although President Bush said that he "respected" the jury's verdict, he also said that he had "concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive." Duh! What about the length of the sentence given to Compean and Ramos?

As governor of Texas, President Bush earned a reputation for toughness and he routinely refused to commute death sentences, even when the Pope asked him to. Well, I'm all for toughness and I usually admire a politician who will stick to his beliefs and principles, no matter what. But in this case, Compean and Ramos should be pardoned, or at the very least, their sentences should be commuted just like "Scooter" Libby's sentence was. This is the fair, and the right thing to do.

Final note: Joe Loya is the father-in-law of Border Patrol Ageny Ignacio Ramos. On December 25, 2006, Mr. Loya sent a Letter to Congressman Walter Jones. This letter is very, very interesting and it explains in detail what actually occurred that day at Fabens, Texas. Yes, Mr. Loya is the father-in-law of Agent Ramos, so the letter is obviously slanted in his defense, but what he reveals in the letter does answer many questions I had, plus it also raises some new ones too. For anyone who is interested in this incident involving Compean and Ramos, I would urge them to read this letter.