(by Jerry Seper & Sara Carter, WashingtonTimes) – President Bush should immediately commute the prison sentences of two former U.S. Border Patrol agents convicted in the shooting of a drug-smuggling suspect, says the chairman of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee.
Rep. Bill Delahunt, Massachusetts Democrat who heads the subcommittee on international organizations, human rights and oversight, said in a resolution yesterday the 11- and 12-year sentences for Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, respectively, were “profoundly disproportionate” based on federal sentencing guidelines.
Ramos, 37, and Compean, 28, were sentenced in October 2006 for shooting Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila in the buttocks in February 2005 when he was running from a van with 743 pounds of marijuana near Fabens, Texas.
Mr. Delahunt called the sentences “a miscarriage of justice,” saying serious questions have been raised about the manner in which U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton in El Paso prosecuted the case.
He said the agents’ supervisor, Border Patrol Sector Chief Luis Barker, described the sentences during Senate testimony as “disproportionate,” and that Mr. Sutton has said, “Some say it’s just too much time, and I have some sympathy for that.”
“President Bush can correct a gross miscarriage of justice with the stroke of a pen,” he said. “And this resolution will put Congress on record demanding that he do just that.”
Mr. Delahunt said that between February 2005 and June 2007, there have been 1,982 incidents in which Border Patrol agents have been assaulted. He said the numbers would “support the premise that Border Patrol agents operate in a climate of tension, danger and even fear for the safety of themselves and others.”
Ramos and Compean testified they thought Aldrete-Davila had a weapon.
Mr. Delahunt said Aldrete-Davila was not required to fully honor an immunity agreement in the case to testify about his involvement in drug trafficking after the Feb. 17, 2005, shooting and before the agents’ trial began. He also noted that under federal sentencing guidelines, persons convicted of manslaughter served an average of four years in prison and those convicted of assault served an average of three years.
Aldrete-Davila, 27, was arrested last month by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents in El Paso on a federal grand-jury indictment charging him with conspiracy and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana. The indictment said he brought a second load of 752 pounds of marijuana into the U.S. in October 2005, eight months after he had been shot by the agents.
The original resolution was endorsed by seven Democrats and four Republicans, although a spokesman for Mr. Delahunt said several other House members indicated their intent to sign on to the measure.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and presidential candidate who introduced a bill in January to pardon the agents, signed onto Mr. Delahunt’s resolution yesterday, his spokesman Joe Kasper said.
“From the very beginning, Congressman Hunter has strongly supported pardoning agents Ramos and Compean, and he will continue to support any effort that ensures this miscarriage of justice is corrected,” Mr. Kasper said.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, said he was “proud” to join Mr. Delahunt in the resolution and praised him for “having the courage to move forward with an effort to help bring Ramos and Compean home to their families in time for Christmas.”
On Nov. 17, top conservatives, including Paul M. Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation and David A. Keene of the American Conservative Union, joined ranking House leaders in their bid to pressure Mr. Bush to pardon the agents. In a letter, 31 major conservative petitioners asked for a pardon.
The White House has said Mr. Bush would review pardon petitions on a case-by-case basis.
The agents want the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the convictions. A three-judge panel hearing the case did not say when they would rule on the appeals. One judge said during arguments Monday that the government had “overreacted” in the case.
Sentencing guidelines established by Congress say a person convicted of committing a violent crime and using a firearm during that crime faces a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. The agents’ attorneys argued that their clients should not have been charged under that rule, since the agents were authorized to carry and use firearms in the normal course of their jobs.
“It’s outrageous,” said Mr. Delahunt, a former prosecutor, “that these men should be serving more time than killers and rapists. They were law-enforcement officers; of course they carry firearms. To hit them with a gun charge carrying a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years is harsh and unnecessary.”
Copyright 2007 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com.
1. Who are Igancio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean?
2. a) Who is Bill Delahunt?
b) In a House resolution made yesterday, what did Mr. Delahunt ask President Bush to do?
3. For what reasons does Mr. Delahunt support Ramos and Compean? Be specific.
4. a) Who is Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila?
b) What did Mr. Davila do 8 months after the agents shot him when he was smuggling marijuana into the U.S.?
5. Name the two Republican congressmen mentioned in the article who have signed Mr. Delahunt’s resolution.
6. Re-read paragraphs 18-19. What do you think of the agents’ sentences based on this information?
Ramos and Compean did not report the shooting. A border patrol agent named Sanchez first learned about it from his mother-in-law, who is friends with Davila’s mother. Sanchez reported Ramos and Compean to Homeland Security.
A federal jury in Texas convicted Ramos and Compean of assault, obstruction of justice and civil rights violations in the wounding of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila on the Texas border.
Do you think their sentence was too harsh? If you support Rep. Delahunt’s resolution to the President, send an email to President Bush at email@example.com.
Put “pardon Ramos and Compean” or something similar in the subject line.
Be clear, concise and polite.
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