Congressmen Want House to Probe Conviction of Border Patrol Agents

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - Republican congressmen are calling on House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) to hold an immediate hearing on two U.S. Border Patrol agents who were convicted and sentenced to 11 to 12 years for shooting a Mexican drug smuggler.

Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) joined Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and other House colleagues in asking for the hearing on the conviction and sentencing of agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean.

"Both Ramos and Compean will appeal these sentences through their counsel," the letter states. "However, their struggle to overturn these convictions would be greatly aided by a congressional inquiry into their case.

"There are several discrepancies in this case which strongly question whether justice was served, thus demonstrating the need for an immediate congressional hearing," the lawmakers wrote.

On Feb. 17, 2005, Ramos and Compean were on duty when they encountered Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila in a van carrying 743 pounds of marijuana. When the agents tried to stop Aldrete-Davila, he fled. Unable to shake the pursuing agents, he abandoned his van and continued toward Mexico on foot.

The agents' version of what happened next contradicts Aldrete-Davila's testimony. The one thing all agree on is that, while fleeing, the illegal alien and drug smuggler was shot. Aldrete-Davila was treated at a hospital in El Paso and then returned to Mexico.

After learning of the shooting, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton sought out Aldrete-Davila in Mexico and offered him immunity from prosecution if he would return to the United States to testify against the two agents.

The initial immunity offer covered Aldrete-Davila's illegal entry into the U.S., the drug smuggling and his unlawful flight from the agents to avoid arrest. Sutton expanded the immunity to include a subsequent drug offense, when Aldrete-Davila tried to smuggle another 1,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States.

"Ramos and Compean were convicted mainly on the testimony of a habitual Mexican drug smuggler, who was given immunity by federal prosecutors to testify," the congressmen said in their letter to Sensenbrenner.

"The integrity of this witness must be called into question, but a sealed indictment for drug charges forbade Ramos and Compean from doing so during their trial.

"Also, there is insufficient proof as to whether or not the drug smuggler was armed that day and in fact threatened Ramos and Compean, forcing them to fire their weapons to protect themselves," the letters states.

"We believe that the lawful protection of our nation's borders is of the utmost importance and we should do everything we can to support the men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol in pursuing that goal," the congressmen said.

"By denying congressional hearings to Ramos and Compean, we are effectively turning our backs on the Border Patrol and the duty we entrust to them to secure our borders."

Unless their convictions are overturned, the two agents must surrender to federal authorities on Jan. 17, 2007.

See Earlier Story
Lawmakers Want Investigation, Pardon for Border Agents (Sept. 8, 2006)

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