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On Jailing of Border Patrol Agents - and setting drug runners free - Page 7
 

-- Appeals Court Upholds Border Agent Convictions
-- Attempted hit put on Ramos family
-- Butting heads at the border
-- Discrepancies in case against Border Patrol unresolved
-- Judge Upholds Lengthy Imprisonment of Border Agents
-- Push to free border agents is renewed
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  Discrepancies in case against Border Patrol unresolved

Homeland Security report doesn't answer critical questions

Posted: February 13, 2007 By Jerome R. Corsi 2007 WorldNetDaily.com

Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean (KFOX-TV, El Paso, Texas)

A series of unexplained discrepancies and contradictions mar the Report of Investigation that was released recently by the Department of Homeland Security to Congress over the case involving former U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.

For example, the heavily redacted report left unclear what the relationship is between Willcox, Ariz-based Border Patrol agent Rene Sanchez and drug smuggler Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, with whom Sanchez supposedly grew up in Mexico.

Ramos and Compean were charged, tried and convicted of shooting Aldrete-Davil, a fleeing drug smuggler, in the buttocks. They were given sentences of 11 and 12 years in prison, while federal prosecutors granted the drug smuggler immunity to return to the United States and testify against the law enforcement officers. The circumstances of the case have outraged many concerned over the problems of illegal immigration and running drugs from Mexico into the United States. Dozens of members of Congress as well as several activist groups have called for the officers to be pardoned.

But the investigation into the record is further complicated, not only by the redactions in the report, but by the failure of the U.S. District Court in El Paso to produce a transcript of the trial, now some 11 months after the trial was completed. Moreover, the Homeland Security document refers to many investigative reports not included in the redacted report.

Similarly unanswered is exactly who Aldrete-Davila is and how he entered the United States on Feb. 17, 2005. Government investigators and the prosecutor do not have a consistent answer to this important question, one considered central to the entire case.

"The prosecutors did not know who Aldrete-Davila really was," Andy Ramirez, chairman of Friends of the Border Patrol told WND, "nor did they care to find out. Once [prosecutor] Johnny Sutton found the drug smuggler, he set his mind on prosecuting the Border Patrol agents. There is nothing in the record to suggest Sutton ever spent a single minute investigating the drug smuggler for prosecution, or finding out who might be related to the drug smuggler that he could prosecute."

WND presented Ramirez with four conflicting versions of Aldrete-Davila's identity, based on official government documents and testimony.

The first version emerges from Homeland Security investigative reports filed by Special Agent Christopher Sanchez, which typically start out with the same paragraph. An example is the memorandum filed on March 24, 2005, and included in the recent report to Congress.

In that report, Christopher Sanchez writes that "Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, a Mexican national, was shot by an unknown BP Agent while attempting to cross into the United States." This is version one – that Aldrete-Davila was shot while attempting to enter the United States from Mexico. It makes Aldrete-Davila sound as if he were a typical illegal immigrant coming into the United States, possibly even to find work to feed his family.

Ramirez commented, on the first version, that "if you believed this version, Aldrete-Davila had nothing to do with the drugs whatsoever. This is the cosmetic version, the version designed to make Aldrete-Davila a complete victim of the rogue Border Patrol just out to kill a Mexican."

Version two can be found in the "Details" section of the Homeland Security report. Here, evidently based on his statements given after being given immunity, readers are told Aldrete-Davila needed "over $1,000 to pay for his medical bills and to renew his Mexican government license equivalent to a commercial driver's license, without which he was not able to work."

Fortunately for Aldrete-Davila, according to this version, "an acquaintance in Mexico approached Aldrete-Davila and told him he could earn $1,500 to drive a load of drugs to a stash house in the United States." The report says Aldrete-Davila agreed and "was instructed where to cross the border into the United States, and was told where to find a gray van loaded with drugs." According to this version, Aldrete-Davila was to drive to [information redacted], where he "would encounter another vehicle that would guide him to the stash house."

"Version two makes Aldrete-Davila appear a sympathetic poor Mexican who was just looking for a way to earn some extra money," Ramirez commented. "What could be more heartbreaking that a disadvantaged Mexican who would do anything to get needed medical care. The statement even suggests that all Aldrete-Davila wanted to do was earn some money so he could get back his commercial driver license to earn an honest living."

Ramirez also noted that in version two Aldrete-Davila has to cross the border on foot, pick up the drug car, and follow-the-leader to the stash house. "Why would any organized drug cartel ever set up a drug delivery this way? It's absurd to think that if the cartel could load the van with marijuana they needed a Mexican to come across the Rio Grande to drive it to the stash house. Maybe prosecutors think this way, but professional drug dealers don't."

Ramirez also noted that version two is important in that it suggests a reason why government investigators and Sutton's office never bothered to check out the cell phone left in the drug van.

"Maybe the cell phone found in the abandoned van belonged to somebody else," Ramirez suggested. "If the cell phone were not Aldrete-Davila's, then prosecutor U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton might not be lying when he claims that there was no evidence whatsoever, except for Aldrete-Davila's own testimony, to tie him to the drug smuggling crime."

Version three occurs in the testimony at trial. While the entire transcript has not yet been completed or released, WND has obtained the trial testimony of Border Patrol Agents Arturo Vasquez, David Jacquez and Oscar Juarez, all of whom were involved in the Feb. 17, 2005, incident for which Ramos and Compean are now imprisoned. All three were also given immunity to testify for the prosecution.

According to version three, the 1989 Ford Econoline Aldrete-Davila was driving was first detected at the border by Compean, who evidently picked up the information from sensors along the border.

"This version probably gets closer to the truth," Ramirez commented. "The only problem is that in this version elements of the other versions disappear. Gone is the suggestion Aldrete-Davila walked across the border to find the drug car. Gone is any lead car taking Aldrete-Davila to the stash house."

Agents Vasquez and Juarez both testified that they were cruising near the levee where the incident ends when they heard Compean put out a "code 1046" radio call that he was pursuing a van headed northbound from the levee. Both agents Vasquez and Juarez were initially confused about whether the van was full-size or a minivan, and both were confused about whether they were looking for a blue or a gray van. Within a few minutes, both agents identified the van and joined Compean in hot pursuit.

Code 1046 indicates Compean suspected they were pursuing a drug-trafficking offender. The border crossing route where Compean first detected the vehicle was known to be a drug route.

As WND has previously reported, Vasquez and Jacquez have subsequently been ousted by the Border Patrol because of their many changed versions and inconsistencies between various statements. Jacquez resigned before he could be fired.

Version four comes from prosecutor Debra Kanof's opening statement at trial. Kanof told the jury that they would hear Aldrete-Davila testify "he was trying to make it back to Mexico" when he turned his vehicle and headed south back to the border in response to the flashing lights of the Border Patrol agents in pursuit.

"With Kanof at trial, we're back to the good Mexican just trying to get home," Ramirez noted. "What all these different versions neglect to mention is that Aldrete was a professional drug cartel mule who has been smuggling drugs into the United States since he was 14 years old."

WND has previously reported that Aldrete-Davila was involved in a second drug smuggling incident that involved postponement of the Ramos-Compean trial while the prosecution scrambled to protect the credibility of their star witness. WND has also reported that at trial, Judge Kathleen Cardone sealed from the jury any discussion of Aldrete-Davila's subsequent drug offense.

"Looking through the entire record developed by the government and the prosecutor," Ramirez points out, "I don't see a single instance where Johnny Sutton ever tried to find out who Aldrete-Davila worked for in Mexico or who he was connected with in the United States. We might have broken a drug ring here, but instead we get two experienced Border Patrol agents behind bars."

Supporting Ramirez's contention is a statement of the redacted Homeland Security report, noting, "Aldrete-Davila refused to provide information on the drug trafficking organization (DTO) that had hired him to smuggle drugs on February 17, 2005. Aldrete-Davila also advised that he did not want to provide information on the DTO for fear of what the DTO might do to him and/or his family, adding that the DTO knew where he and his family lived and worked."

Ramirez remains suspicious of the various government/prosecution versions. "I wonder who they were protecting?" Ramirez asked. "What happens when Aldrete-Davila gets caught a second time smuggling drugs into the United States. Is Debra Kanof going to retract the statement that all Aldrete-Davila wanted was his commercial driving license in Mexoco? I don’t think so."

"What we have here," Ramirez told WND, "is an emerging government record that suggests the prosecution never seriously attempted to prosecute drug dealers, even when they had their hands on a guy who might have led them to a wider net. Where's the cell phone now? Maybe we can still get some useful information in this case which would actually let us capture some drug criminals."
 
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 Attempted hit put on Ramos family

'Thank God no one turned on a light! Monica and her 3 boys would be gone!'

January 14, 2009 By Chelsea Schilling WorldNetDaily

Monica Ramos embraces her husband, former U.S. Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos, two days before he was sentenced to 11 years in prison (Courtesy El Paso Times)

The family of imprisoned Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos was the victim of an attempted hit on their lives this month, as the agent's wife says someone broke into their El Paso home and filled it with gas, trashing photographs and pummeling their dog.

Just weeks after Monica Ramos spoke with WND about the difficulty of enduring Christmas without her husband, her family returned from visiting Ignacio in prison on Jan 3. While she was away, burglars stole DVDS, a BB gun and cell phone and slashed her couch with a knife.

They even beat her dog and ripped cherished wedding pictures and family photos of their life with Ignacio off the walls, smashing them on the ground.

But the vandalism wasn't the worst part, Monica revealed in a Jan. 12 BlogTalkRadio interview just before she left again to visit her husband.

"It wasn't so much that stuff was burglarized or that they actually took much," she said. "What was really hard was that when we got here, the gas was turned on. It was very intentional in that somebody was trying to hurt us."

Her son opened the front door and discovered the strong odor.

"Right away he alerted me," she said. "He started yelling, 'Mom, don't walk in. Don't bring my brothers.' He said, 'The gas is on!' He ran in and started turning everything off."

Her father, Joe Loya, wrote on his blog, "Thank God no one turned on a light! Monica and her three boys would be gone!"

Monica said she believes the gas was left on for two days.

Her 11-year-old son walked into their home and started crying, 'Look at our house. Haven't they done enough?'

Then he said, "Why won't the president just let my dad come home? This wouldn't have happened."

Monica said the incident is still under investigation.

Her older son has also faced troubling circumstances at school due to his father's imprisonment.

Three months ago, his high school hosted a career day. Border Patrol agents spoke with students about the field.

Monica said one Border Patrol agent stood in front of the student body and said, "I know many of you may have heard about this Ramos-Compean case, and we just want you to know that we got rid of two bad apples. You know, not all agents are rogue agents. They're not out to break the laws."

"I thought, 'Oh my God. Is this propaganda?' Monica said. "This is what you are using as your hiring technique? Did they not ever think that my son was going to be part of that student body? My son got a lot of heat at school."

She talked to the school and reported the incident to the Department of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, Monica said visiting Ramos has become very difficult for her family.

"My husband, the deplorable conditions that he's in, it's unheard of," she said in the interview. "When I go in and I see him, I try to keep him in the highest spirits I can possibly keep him in. It is difficult for him."

She said Ignacio is in segregation for 23 hours every day, and he's not allowed out of his cell on weekends.

"I'm surprised that my husband hasn't accidentally ended up on death row with the way he's being treated in prison," Ramos said. "He doesn't even go by a name any more. He is literally 58079180. He's a number in the system. It is awful."

When Monica and her children enter the Phoenix prison, they are extensively searched for weapons and drugs. The family is not allowed to touch Ignacio for more than one second because guards worry that visitors may be giving him contraband.

"I mean, are we for real? He's in there because he was stopping a drug smuggler," she said. "And yet my kids have to go through an extensive search when we see him. ... We're not able to have any physical contact with him while we're there. "

Monica said Ignacio is enjoying the letters he receives from supporters – especially encouraging ones.

Ramos' attorney, David Botsworth, told WND a petition for writ of certiorari was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court and docketed on Dec. 11. Response was due by Jan. 12, but that date has been extended to Feb. 11.

Despite the family's troubles, they remain hopeful that Bush may still show mercy and pardon Ignacio and Jose Compean before Jan. 20.

"Whatever this week holds for us," she said, "I just want everybody to know that we genuinely appreciate from the bottom of our hearts everything that everybody has done and continues to do."

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 Judge Upholds Lengthy Imprisonment of Border Agents

November 14, 2008    By Fred Lucas, Staff Writer

U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton of the Western District of Texas (Courtesy of Department of Justice Web site)(CNSNews.com) – A federal judge left unchanged the decade-plus prison sentences for two Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting a Mexican drug smuggler in early 2005.

The ruling could be the final chapter of a controversial legal case that began along the Texas-Mexican border and erupted into a political and media firestorm.

The prosecutor in the case, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton of the Western District of Texas, was satisfied with the outcome.

“It was a very righteous prosecution,” Sutton told CNSNews.com on Thursday. “The court of appeals and anyone who has looked at the facts has agreed with that. The only question, I think a legitimate question, is, ‘is the punishment too harsh?’ I have always said the punishment in this case was harsh, but it was a punishment set in place by Congress.”

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone was not unexpected, as the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean for assault with a deadly weapon, violation of civil rights, and discharging a firearm in the commission of a crime.

The appeals court did, however, reverse convictions against the two agents on five counts of tampering with evidence. Cardone ruled on Compean’s sentence Wednesday and on Ramos’ sentence Thursday.

Still, the charge of firing a deadly weapon during the commission of a crime carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. The other counts against the agents carried concurrent sentences. This left the 11 years for Ramos and 12 years for Compean intact.

The case was the subject of congressional hearings and calls from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers for President George W. Bush to pardon or commute the agents’ sentences.

Many senators and House members called Sutton to task for bringing the discharge-of-a-weapon count. But Sutton defended the move.

“What happens is the trial prosecutors get together as a team and start looking at the evidence, and they will sometimes file superseding indictments that correspond to the investigation,” Sutton said.

“The (weapons charge) was filed before there was any discussion with any attorneys about plea bargains. When someone in the Senate says we just did this to be vindictive, that is not accurate. My prosecutors were adamant they did not do any plea negotiations. They just did that as a matter of course.”

The last avenue left is an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, while the defense has filed a formal application for commutation, said Tara Setmayer, press secretary for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), one of the leading advocates for the agents.

“Many patriotic Americans are dismayed by the continued persecution and legal torture of former Border Patrol officers Ramos and Compean,” Rohrabacher said in a statement.

“The legal establishment has obviously taken its directives from senior levels of the Bush administration. All decent Americans are now calling on President Bush to show some mercy towards these unjustly convicted men who never should have been prosecuted in the first place,” Rohrabacher added.

The drug smuggler who was shot, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, was given immunity to testify against the two agents. However, Aldrete-Davila was later convicted of subsequent drug smuggling offenses.

Sutton realizes that the border agents’ case has brought immense unwelcome publicity his way. However, he said he has always tried to do the right thing even if it was unpopular.

“My team has prosecuted over 43,000 felony defendants since I’ve been U.S. attorney,” said Sutton, who was named to the post in October 2001. “It is somewhat ironic that I’m known for this case and not for all the drug dealers and illegal aliens and crooked politicians and child predators that we put in prison. … All you can do is do your job, enforce the rule of law and stand up against the bullies.”
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 Butting heads at the border

August 18, 2008 By Chuck Norris

Exclusive: Chuck Norris smells another Ramos, Compean case

Last week a 10-year U.S. Border Patrol veteran shot and wounded a man in the left buttocks who assaulted agents at a violent stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border. Despite that the man was among a group who were trying to illegally enter the United States and were throwing rocks and concrete chunks at agents, officials at the Mexican consulate in San Diego are criticizing the agent and demanding the U.S. conduct a full investigation.

The incident occurred after one agent witnessed and called for backup because three to four illegals were trying to scale the border fence. So four to six more agents responded by using a gate in the fence to get to its south side – still within the U.S. The agents fired pepper balls and tear gas to disperse a group of about seven to 15 people, and most fled. Two of the suspects, however, stayed and threw rocks and concrete chunks toward the Border Patrol agents. Fearing for his safety, one agent fired two rounds from his rifle from about 50 feet away, striking 22-year-old Edgar Israel Ortega Chavez, who then was standing on Mexican soil.

Consul General Remedios Gómez Arnau responded, "Any kind of shooting toward Mexican territory is rejected by the Mexican government. They should have waited for response of the Mexican authorities."

Are you kidding me? Do I smell another Compean and Ramos case in the making? Do illegals think border crossing is nothing more than a game of cat and mouse? Do Mexican officials think we're only playing "rocks, scissors and paper" at the borders? When will we finally draw a line in the sand and stop this insanity at our nation's boundaries? When will we back our agents and their Bill of Rights? When will we give them the complete resources, permissions and support they need to fully carry out their duties?

When Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Daryl Reed reports that there have been 330 assaults on agents already this year, compared with 254 reported incidents in 2007, it's time for our government to ante up and better protect and secure our borders and agents!

Border security is of course so critical because it is about far more than just illegal immigrants. It affects the transport of drugs, gangs (like MS-13), terrorism and even affects issues of sovereignty. That is why I address our border troubles as one of eight major problems threatening America most in my upcoming (Sept. 7 release) book, "Black Belt Patriotism" (Regnery publishing), which is now available for pre-order at Amazon. In the book I give my critique of what is destroying our country, and offer my solutions for rebuilding America and restoring the American dream. In particular, I lean heavily upon our founders' work and wisdom, looking to them for their possible solutions to our present problems.

Here's a first-seen glimpse from the chapter, "Secure and protect our borders," in which I also give (but not here) my solutions to deal with the 12 million or so illegal immigrants already residing in America:

A few years ago I had the opportunity to fly along America's borders with my good friend John Hensley, who was the assistant commissioner of U.S. Customs. We flew on a Black Hawk helicopter and checked out locations along the California border, where there was heavy traffic of drug dealers and illegal aliens coming into the United States from Mexico.
As we were flying over the desert, we landed in the middle of nowhere. We stepped out of the helicopter and John asked me, "What do you see?" I replied, "Absolutely nothing but desert." As soon as I said that, up popped U.S. border agents, who were hiding in holes covered by beige tarps that blended in with the terrain. They were waiting for illegal traffic trying to sneak into our country. I thought, what dedication this takes to hide out here in this intense heat for hours at a time – just waiting.

There's no doubt that Americans possess the resources and passion to close off our borders and ports from illegal immigration and contraband. If we can overthrow another country, we ought to be able to protect our own. Yet to this day, our national borders and ports of entry are like lattice work with plenty of holes through which illegals now come in.

I don't lay the blame on our dedicated border agents. But I do blame an overly bureaucratic government that still has not given agents the proper resources and permissions they need to get their job done. I also blame government for undermining national security by being more concerned with global commerce than national sovereignty. They would rather please the international masses than enforce our own laws.

Let's ask ourselves, why is Congress not securing our borders? Could it be they have greater global goals that will ultimately dissolve this Union? Whether intentionally or not, government has failed for decades to secure the borders. It is up to us to make sure it gets done, by taking several points of action that I'll be outlining in this chapter. The time is now. And if we don't do our part, America as we know it will dissolve like a sugar cube in coffee. From the coastland to the heartland, we will lose our distinctions and no longer even recognize our country. As President Ronald Reagan said, "A nation without borders is not a nation."

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  Push to free border agents is renewed

8/16/2008    By Graeme Zielinski - SAEN

Joe Loya, father-in-law of former Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos, slipped into the shade outside the El Paso federal courthouse last week, lamenting the absence of a Lou Dobbs producer while a volunteer “Minuteman” from California captured Loya on a digital recorder for a Web site.

Hundreds of miles away, Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean sat incarcerated, in Phoenix and in Elkton, Ohio, respectively, each serving more than a decade for a 2005 shooting in the dust of the Mexican border. The two former Border Patrol agents shot a fleeing Aldrete in the buttocks during a botched drug run on the border near El Paso.

The past few weeks have seen dramatic developments in the cases of Ramos and Compean, pushing the story back onto front pages and breathing new energy into movements — inflamed by the roiling debate over drugs and immigration from Mexico — to see them freed.  As the options for Ramos and Compean become more limited, there is still a flurry of activity on their behalf, fired by a recent appellate ruling and Aldrete's conviction.  Supporters continue to raise money for the former agents' legal defense and their young families. Congressional attempts are under way to retroactively change gun laws in such a way that would see Ramos and Compean sprung.

Pleas for a pardon or commutation for Ramos and Compean from President Bush are sharpening. And anti-immigration activists, who see in Ramos and Compean metaphors for what's wrong on the Mexican border, are pressing their public excoriation of U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, for whom the case has become a public relations headache.  “I think, at this point, you'd have to say the hill gets a lot steeper to climb,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a supporter of the agents who has written to Bush seeking commutations. 

David Armendariz, a San Antonio illegal alien lawyer, said the agents' supporters are at a point of desperation.

“It's the end of the road for them,” he said. “They had their day in court. They had their due process of law, the same due process that they tried to deprive a person who they shot in the back.”  [Maybe the real mistake the agents made was to not kill the Mexican smuggler, if you're an agent in this situation in future maybe you should asure the smuggler don't come back to bite you.]

Appellate ruling

On July 28, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals shot down arguments seeking to overturn the jury convictions of the former agents for shooting Aldrete and then seeking to cover it up.  The panel in strong language denied the central points of the appeals, that jurors had wrongly been kept from information about Aldrete and that the prosecution had improperly applied a gun statute with mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years.

The legal hurdles for Ramos and Compean grew even higher with the 5th Circuit ruling. The ruling might have cracked open some avenues for appeal, but deferred to the judgment of the jury in the case that the men wrongfully pursued and shot at Aldrete, and that Aldrete, though hauling hundreds of pounds of marijuana, posed no threat to the men. 

Responding to an argument about the application of a gun statute, E. Grady Jolly wrote for the three-judge panel that “whether the defendants were justified in shooting Aldrete Davila is an issue no longer in play after the jury verdict that rejected the defendants' version of the facts.”  The appellate lawyers for both Ramos and Compean have filed motions for a re-hearing, an unusual action in any case, and for their arguments to be heard by the judges of the entire circuit, a move rarely granted following so forceful a decision.  David L. Botsford, a lawyer for Ramos, was hopeful, saying, “It ain't over yet.”

“I don't have a crystal ball, but there are some serious issues that justify re-hearing,” he said.  So far as the possibility of commutations go, a Justice Department spokesman said Aug. 8 that neither former agent had formally applied for clemency. It's not clear that either yet would even be eligible under current rules, especially since their appeals are still pending.  That hasn't stopped several members of Congress, including Cornyn, from pressing the case for clemency.

Asked July 30 about a statement from Cornyn that President Bush should “step forward and commute their sentences,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino demurred, and directed reporters to the 5th Circuit decision.  Cornyn, in an Aug. 8 interview, said, “It looks increasingly like the president's the only one constitutionally able to do something about it.” 

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), part of a group of congressmen who have pressed the case for Ramos and Compean, ascribed deeper motives to Bush, speculating that the lack of action had to do with the administration's deference to trade goals with Mexico.  “I don't know that for a fact. It's hard to get them to respond to anything regarding these two Border Patrol agents,” said Jones, who also said he was working to have another Judiciary Committee hearing on the matter and put Sutton under oath again.  Sutton, whose office is near the lead in the country in drug and immigration convictions, has repeatedly rejected the characterizations of the agents as innocents or his office's prosecution as vindictive.  Sutton has been caricatured as “Johnny Satan” on Web sites and been the subject of other vituperative remarks, but, in an interview last week, he again defended the case.  “This case is not about me or my prosecutors,” he said. “This case is about the rule of law ... We had to follow the facts where they led.”

Last week, a chastened Aldrete himself returned to the courtroom where he had testified against the agents.  Except this time, he was there to be sentenced for being the hub of a cross-border drug-running operation, delivering hundreds of pounds of marijuana, even after the gunshot that fragmented and tore through his urethra in February 2005.

Movement to free agents

Back in El Paso last week, Loya, father of Monica Ramos, Ignacio Ramos' 36-year-old wife and a driving force within a media-savvy campaign, sighed when asked to predict the outcome for his central goal, to see his son-in-law and a fellow agent freed.  “I don't know where this is going to go,” Loya said, maneuvering toward a battery of cameras with the “Minuteman” from the vigilante group against illegal immigration in tow.

As for attitudes within the conservative circles that have kept the story alive and Sutton in their crosshairs, Houston radio talk show host and steakhouse proprietor Edd Hendee answered a question about whether or not it still resonated with an anecdote.

After the 5th Circuit ruling, he put out appeals for donations to the Ramos and Compean families, to cover legal and living expenses. The response?

“It's going to take us the better part of a month to two months, with two people working around the clock... to handle opening the letters and counting the checks,” he said.

With more than $206,000 raised as of Aug. 8, Hendee said he's had to set aside space in his steakhouse's administrative offices for the stacks of checks.

But in El Paso, advocacy for Ramos and Compean falls on deaf ears because of the large percentage of Mexican immigrants in town, said Loya, an insurance agent.

“People just don't want to get behind us for some kind of fear, because there's so much hate for the Border Patrol in El Paso,” he said.

Loya said he was going to continue to press for Ramos' release, chiefly because of his three grandchildren. The day of the Aldrete sentencing, one celebrated his 11th birthday.

“After he opened his gifts, Loya said to me, ‘I still didn't get what I want,'”.
 

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 Appeals Court Upholds Border Agent Convictions

Tuesday, July 29, 2008    By Fred Lucas, Staff Writer

Former U.S. Border Patrol Agents Jose Alonso Compean (left) and Ignacio Ramos arrive at the federal courthouse in El Paso, Texas, to surrender to authorities on Jan. 17, 2007. (AP File Photo)(CNSNews.com) – A federal appeals court in New Orleans on Monday upheld most of the convictions that gave two former Border Patrol agents lengthy prison sentences.

Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean received 11- and 12-year sentences, respectively, for shooting an illegal alien drug smuggler in the buttocks as he ran toward the Mexican border.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans vacated the obstruction charges that alleged the agents tried to cover up the crime and sent their case back for re-sentencing.

Their sentences are unlikely to be reduced, however, because the appeals court affirmed their conviction on one of the most controversial grounds -- discharging a firearm during the commission of a crime, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.

The incident happened on February 17, 2005, when Ramos and Compean encountered Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila as he tried to smuggle 743 pounds of marijuana from Mexico into Fabens, Texas. As he tried to flee, Compean fired his gun 14 times but did not hit Aldrete-Davila. Ramos shot once and hit him in the buttocks. Both agents said they saw him holding a gun.

The controversial case has prompted congressional hearings and calls for President Bush to pardon the two men.

The appeals court decision was a long time coming. A three-judge panel heard the case in December 2007, and it was expected to have a decision within 60 days, according to lawyers involved in the case.

“For the most part, the trial of this case was about credibility, and although the jury could have gone either way, it chose not to believe the defendants’ version of the crucial events of February 17. The trial of the case was conducted fairly and without reversible error,” the appeals panel said in a 46-page opinion.

The opinion said there were no legal grounds to dismiss the firearms charge.

“[T]here is no question but that a police officer’s unjustifiable shooting of a victim qualifies as a crime of violence; there is no question but that a police officer’s shooting a victim who poses no physical threat to the safety of the officer or the public is unjustifiable; there is no question but that during this conduct each of the defendants used a firearm,” the opinion said. “The facts relating to these postulates were decided by the jury based upon credibility determinations that we, as an appellate court, may not disturb.”

The other major contention by the defense was that the subsequent drug smuggling offense committed by Aldrete-Davila in October 2005 -- while he still had immunity to testify against the border agents -- should have been admitted as evidence in the trial. The defense argued that Aldrete-Davila was not an amateur “mule” in the drug trade, as federal prosecutors argued, and therefore probably had a gun as the agents claimed.

Aldrete-Davila -Davila was arrested in October 2007 for the offense he committed two years earlier. In April this year, he pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggle more than 700 pounds of marijuana into the country. His sentencing will be on August 6.

The evidence of the October 2005 drug smuggling was not compelling enough to have vacated the jury’s verdict, the appeals court ruled.

“The evidence would show one incident a number of months later—not earlier—in which he was acting in a similar low-level position as a transporter of a load of drugs. And it would have shown no indication that he was carrying a weapon on this occasion,” the court ruled. “… Aldrete-Davila -Davila’s guilt of a subsidiary, unadjudicated crime could quickly have become a mini-trial within the trial and a proxy for the defendants’ guilt, a point relied on by the district court in excluding the evidence.”

U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton of the Western District of Texas, whose office prosecuted the case, was pleased with the outcome.

“With today’s decision, I would ask that those who have criticized the prosecution, generally relying upon misleading and at times false versions of what happened, will re-evaluate their positions in light of the court record, including the description of the evidence provided by the Fifth Circuit opinion,” Sutton said in a statement.

“I believe that those who understand the record and the evidence introduced at trial will realize that the actions of Compean and Ramos in shooting an unarmed and fleeing suspect were serious crimes which had to be prosecuted in order to maintain the rule of law.”

However Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) one of the leading advocates for the agents in Congress was appalled at the ruling.

“Unfortunately, the court has sided with the prosecutors who threw the book at the good guys and the good guys have lost this round,” Rohrabacher said in a statement. “I renew my call for the President to do the right thing and immediately pardon Ramos and Compean.”

David Botsford, Ramos' attorney, was glad the cover-up charges were dropped, even though it didn’t provide much in the way of relief.

“They never should have been in there, and that colored the jury's entire consideration of this case,” Botsford told the Associated Press.

Bob Baskett, Compean's lawyer, said this is not the end of the case.

“I think the court is wrong in a couple of the major points and we will be filing a motion for rehearing about those points”
 
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