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IBD: Duty, Honor, Country

Jan 20, 2009

Washington, Jan 20, 2009 - Justice: We've seen pardons for terrorists and international fugitives. Border Patrol guards Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean didn't get one for defending their country and doing their job, but they should have.

Maybe it was because the pardon process was so tainted by his predecessor that President Bush was reluctant to use it to pardon two border guards who we believe were doing nothing more than the job they were trained to do defending the American border against armed invaders.
Instead their sentences were commuted to time served, about two years out of 11- and 12-year sentences.

They were convicted for shooting drug-runner Osvaldo Aldrete Davila in the buttocks in 1975 as he tried to flee back to Mexico after abandoning a van with 750 pounds of marijuana near Fabens, Texas. Their sentences will end, and they'll be released March 20.

The Justice Department's pardon attorney recently opened a file on their case and said at the time that a pardon was not likely since it would nullify the convictions and the punishment.

It is the administration's belief that the trial was fair but the sentences were excessive. They were excessive, but we have our doubts about the fairness of the trial and the justness of the convictions.
The law under which the agents were ordered to serve minimum 10-year sentences for using a firearm in the commission of a crime had never been applied to law enforcement officers in the conduct of their official duties. They were also charged with failing to file a report and removing shell casings from the scene in an attempt to cover up their actions.

Ramos and Compean were charged under section 924(c) of the criminal code, a section intended to punish felons who use firearms in the commission of a crime, not law enforcement officers trying to catch lawbreakers.

Compean and Ramos were prosecuted by Johnny Sutton, U.S. attorney for West Texas, on the grounds they shot an unarmed man and then conspired to cover it up. But in an April 4, 2005, memo, DHS Special Agent Christopher Sanchez states that Compean believed Aldrete-Davila was armed.

"Compean said that Aldrete-Davila continued to look back over his shoulder toward Compean as Aldrete-Davila ran away from him," Sanchez wrote in the memo.

"Compean said that he began to shoot at Aldrete-Davila because of the shiny object he thought he saw in Aldrete-Davila's left hand. . . . Compean said he thought that the shiny object might be a gun and that Aldrete-Davila was going to shoot him, because he kept looking back at him as he was running away."

The presence of the two supervisors at the scene explains why the two didn't file a report. They didn't feel they had to since their supervisors — Robert Arnold, a supervisory Border Patrol agent, and Jonathan Richards, a field operations supervisor — were at the scene.

Andy Ramirez, who has watched the case unfold as chairman of the group Friends of the Border Patrol, told World Net Daily: "The Border Patrol manual specifies that only a verbal report needs to be made of shooting incidents like this. All the agents in the field were discussing the shooting incident, including the supervisors. What more of a verbal report needed to be made?"
From the beginning Sutton took the word of Aldrete-Davila over anything the two agents had to say. In exchange for testifying against the two agents, Davila was given immunity from prosecution for smuggling drugs on the day he was shot.

Aldrete-Davila showed his gratitude by breaking the immunity agreement he was given by Sutton in exchange for testifying against the two agents by attempting to smuggle another 753 pounds of weed into the U.S. the following October. It's this second incident that Sutton successfully concealed from the jury.

We share the belief of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who described Ramos and Compean as "unjustly convicted men who never should have been prosecuted in the first place." We applaud President Bush for at least commuting their sentences and giving them the freedom that never should have been taken away.

Maybe compassion doesn't stop at the border after all.
Original Article: Investor's Business Daily