Border Agents' Punishments Blasted | MassCops

Border Agents' Punishments Blasted

Discussion in 'Illegal Immigration Issues' started by kwflatbed, Jul 20, 2007.

  1. kwflatbed

    kwflatbed MassCops Angel Staff Member

    MICHELLE MITTELSTADT
    The Houston Chronicle

    WASHINGTON - The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday criticized key aspects of the controversial prosecution of two Border Patrol agents from Texas sentenced to more than a decade in prison for shooting and wounding an unarmed, fleeing Mexican drug smuggler.
    Senators from both parties accused federal prosecutors of overreaching in going after ex-agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos, who are serving 12- and 11-year prison sentences, respectively, for shooting Osvaldo Aldrete Davila after a February 2005 high-speed chase outside El Paso.
    "This really is a case of prosecutorial ... overreaction in charging," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chaired the hearing attended by the ex-agents' wives.
    Feinstein, Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn and other senators described the former agents' punishment as excessive.
    Patty Compean said the hearing helped her husband's cause.
    "It actually started unmasking people," the 30-year-old El Paso mother of three said, demanding that President Bush pardon Compean. "My husband was doing his job."
    The case has become a flashpoint in the volatile immigration debate. The agents' cause is championed by conservatives who contend the Justice Department sided with a drug trafficker at the expense of agents who daily face difficult challenges patrolling an ever more violent U.S.-Mexico boundary.
    Hearing on Mexico's role
    It has become a headache for the White House and Border Patrol as well, with the administration being bombarded with hundreds of thousands of petitions, e-mails and calls urging Bush to pardon the men.
    The House Foreign Affairs Committee is expected to conduct a hearing examining the role that Mexico played in demanding the agents' prosecution, and the House Judiciary Committee also is considering a hearing, said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble.
    U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, who has waged an unusually public defense of his prosecutors' actions, continued to defend his team under persistent questioning Tuesday. And he challenged claims that the two ex-agents are heroes persecuted by an overzealous government.
    "Agents Compean and Ramos crossed the line. They are not heroes," Sutton, who is based in San Antonio, testified. "They deliberately shot an unarmed man in the back without justification, destroyed evidence to cover it up and lied about it. These are serious crimes."
    But Feinstein, Cornyn and others were openly skeptical of prosecutors' decision to grant immunity to the drug smuggler, who abandoned a van with a $1 million marijuana payload after being chased by Ramos and Compean. They also questioned why the prosecutors granted a known drug smuggler the right to freely cross into the U.S. after the agents' arrest - particularly since he has been implicated by the Drug Enforcement Administration in the delivery of another million-dollar marijuana shipment just months later.
    Sutton said authorities have not yet proved that Aldrete was involved in the October 2005 delivery.
    "I am deeply concerned with some of the information that came to light at today's committee hearing," Cornyn said afterward. "Among other things, it would appear that the government allowed this drug dealer to violate the terms of his immunity agreement with impunity."
    Weapons charge
    The senators questioned prosecutors' decision to charge Ramos and Compean with using a weapon during the commission of a crime. The charge carries a 10-year penalty and is most often used against drug dealers and other criminals.
    "I believe there's a lack of balance in what's happened here," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
    Sutton defended his office's decision to add the gun charge.
    "The fact is that it is a crime to discharge a firearm during a crime of violence and we will continue to bring those charges where the law and the evidence warrant," he said.
    Sutton said prosecutors couldn't charge Aldrete with bringing 743 pounds of marijuana into the U.S. because the agents' misconduct undermined the case.
    As for the smuggler's border-crossing privileges, Sutton described them as somewhat routine in cases where prosecutors need access to Mexican witnesses.
    While Sutton, former Border Patrol El Paso sector chief Luis Barker and Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar bemoaned the controversy stirred by the case, they singled out Ramos and Compean for the blame.
    "This has been a tragedy with emotional undercurrent. But there should be no mistake about it, it begins and ends with the actions of Agents Compean and Ramos. Not the prosecutors. Not the judge or the jury, as has been suggested," said Barker, who retired as deputy chief of the Border Patrol.

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