Star-Telegram: "Appeals court affirms sentences for two border patrol agents"

Jul 29, 2008
Articles

Washington, Jul 29, 2008 - A federal appeals court upheld lengthy prison sentences Monday for two Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting a Mexican drug smuggler, prompting renewed appeals from their supporters for leniency from the White House.

Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean have been imprisoned for more than a year.

They were convicted in a Feb. 17, 2005, shooting involving Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, who was trying to flee back into Mexico after abandoning a van containing 743 pounds of marijuana near Fabens.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld most of the counts returned by a federal jury in El Paso.

Ramos was sentenced to 11 years in prison, Compean to 12.

The appeals court tossed out a conviction for tampering with an official proceeding.

"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 Feb. 17," said the New Orleans-based appeals court. "The trial ... was conducted fairly and without reversible error."

The ruling marks a victory for U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton of San Antonio, whose office prosecuted the case.

"By affirming the convictions of the most serious charges against Mr. Compean and Mr. Ramos, the court has validated what this office has said all along -- this prosecution was about the rule of law, plain and simple," said Sutton, whose office has come under fire for prosecuting the agents and for granting immunity to Aldrete-Davila in exchange for his testimony.

Sutton called upon his critics "to re-evaluate their positions" in light of the appeals court ruling.

The agents’ lawyers said they will seek a rehearing before the appeals court and are prepared to take the case even further if necessary.

"I think it’s far from over," said Dallas attorney Bob Baskett, who represents Compean. Ramos’ attorney, David Botsford of Austin, said that if the rehearing efforts are unsuccessful, "then I’ll take it to the Supreme Court."

Relatives said they were stunned by the ruling. "We’re in shock," said Joe Loya of El Paso, the father of Ramos’ wife, Monica Ramos. "My daughter’s devastated. We were hoping for a big homecoming."

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, expressed "strong disappointment" with the ruling and again called on President Bush to commute the sentences.

He called their imprisonment a "miscarriage of justice."

Cornyn and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, first requested a commutation in a letter to Bush more than a year ago.

They sent a follow-up letter in April, renewing the request.

The ruling affirmed a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence for the unlawful discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence.

"Unfortunately, the court has sided with the prosecutors who threw the book at the good guys, and the good guys have lost this round," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who called on Bush to pardon the agents.
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Original Article: Star-Telegram.com