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Lawmakers implore Bush to free ex-border agents

Jan 14, 2009

Washington, Jan 14, 2009 - With just six days left of the Bush presidency, Rep.Dana Rohrabacher and a group of a dozen House members, including Rep. Ed Royce, held a press conference today to again implore the president to pardon or commute the sentences of the two ex-border patrol agents in federal prison for shooting a fleeing drug dealer at the Mexican border.

“This prosecution was rotten from day one,’’ said Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, who has been working to free Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos since they were convicted in 2006. Compean’s sister, Claudia Martinez, lives in Huntington Beach. “Right now we have a chance to make it right.’’

Bush has issued a couple of rounds of pardons in his final months in office but the two ex-agents were not included. Rohrabacher said if they cannot convince Bush to free the two imprisoned former agents, he will continue the fight when President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

Today’s news conference keyed in on Johnny Sutton, the Texas-based U.S. Attorney who prosecuted this case and is known to be a close friend of President Bush. The lawmakers urged Sutton to recommend a pardon or commutation to the president.

Rohrabacher produced a poster showing six different media interviews Sutton has done in the past couple of years in which he acknowledged that the 11 and 12-year sentences the two received were “harsh” and “extremely high.

Royce said he buttonholed the president at the White House holiday reception for members of Congress.

The Fullerton Republican said he told Bush that if these two had been convicted of manslaughter statistics show that they likely would have served an average of three years. In this case the drug dealer shot was not seriously injured.

The two were also convicted of covering up the incident at border.

“It’s the disproportionate nature of this,’’ Royce said, that upsets him so much “This is a great miscarriage of justice.’’

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino was asked this morning whether the president was going to issue any more pardons and/or commutations before he leaves office Tuesday at noon.

“We don’t talk about pardons here,’’; she said at her daily press briefing. “And I truly don’t know. But when there – if and when there are, I’ll let you know.’’

While virtually all the lawmakers at the news conference were Republican, one Democrat, Rep. Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts was there and also spoke out for a commutation. Delahunt chairs a subcommittee that has held hearings on this matter.

“This is a final opportunity for President Bush to demonstrate compassion,’’ Delahunt said. California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feintstein has also urged Bush to release the agents.

Original Article: O.C. Register