Drug Smuggler Gets Less Prison Time Than Border Agents

By Fred Lucas | August 7, 2008 | 11:24 AM EDT

(CNSNews.com) – The Mexican drug smuggler who testified against the two Border Patrol agents who shot him near the Mexican border was sentenced Wednesday to nine and a half years in federal prison. That’s a shorter sentence than either of the agents received.
Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila received two consecutive 57-month sentences for smuggling almost 800 pounds of marijuana into the U.S. in September and October of 2005. During that time, he had immunity from prosecution for an earlier smuggling episode -- the one where he was shot by Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.
In February 2005, Compean shot 14 times at the fleeing illegal alien drug smuggler, but he missed.  Ramos shot once and hit Aldrete-Davila in the buttocks before the wounded smuggler made it back across the Mexican border.
Aldrete-Davila had been trying to sneak 743 pounds of marijuan into Fabens, Texas, near El Paso when the agents spotted him.
Ramos and Compean were sentenced to 11 and 12 years, respectively, for discharging a weapon in the commission of a crime of violence. A federal appeals court upheld the border agents’ conviction last week. Both agents said they thought the smuggler had a gun, but if he did, it was never found.
U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton’s office, in the Western District of Texas, sought out Aldrete-Davila in Mexico, gave him immunity from any crimes he committed that February day, and provided him with free medical care so that he would testify against Ramos and Compean.
“It is an insult that the drug dealer would do less time than the agents,” Monica Ramos, wife of Ignacio Ramos, told CNSNews.com.
The U.S. government issued Aldrete-Davila with border crossing cards, allowing him to enter and exit the country without supervision while he was waiting to testify against the border agents. It was during this time that he committed the drug offense that has now landed him in prison.
The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a report on Aldrete-Davila’s illegal activity, but Sutton’s office did not prosecute him until two years after it happened. Sutton said his prosecutors were establishing evidence of a crime.
Aldrete-Davila pleaded guilty in April to charges of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and conspiracy.
Prosecutors in the border agents’ case blocked efforts by defense attorneys for Ramos and Compean to include evidence of Aldrete-Davila’s other offenses in the agents’ trial.
The border agents’ conviction caused a national firestorm. Critics said the good guys were punished for doing their job, while the bad guy was granted immunity for smuggling drugs.
Last summer, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Sutton on the case.
Members of Congress from both parties have called on President Bush to either pardon or commute the sentences of the two agents.
Monica Ramos, who was in the courtroom when the sentence was handed down, said she was happy to see that “justice was done. The drug smuggler will go to prison.” But she said she doesn’t view this as a victory.
“My heart goes out to Mrs. Davila and her kids,” Monica Ramos said. “There are no winners here. My three kids, Joe’s three kids and now Davila’s two kids lost a father because of his (Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila’s) actions.”
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) said the sentencing underscores what a disgrace the border agents’ prosecution was.
“You can’t blame a criminal for committing more crimes after being given a free pass, but you can blame Sutton’s ‘win at all costs’ arrogance and despicable judgment for totally destroying the lives of two heroic border agents for doing their jobs,” Rohrabacher said.
“There is no question the fallout from Sutton’s prosecutorial overreach in the Ramos and Compean case has already caused immeasurable harm to the efforts and morale of the men and women of not only the Border Patrol, but all law enforcement.”