Former U.S. Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos embraced his wife, Monica Ramos, two days before he was sentenced to 11 years in prison (Courtesy El Paso Times)
Those who have been lobbying for a presidential pardon or other intervention from the government on behalf of two former U.S. Border Patrol agents sentenced to prison for shooting an escaping drug dealer in the buttocks should review the evidence in their cases, White House spokesman Tony Snow told WND.
“They (agents Jose Alonso Compean, 28, and Ignacio Ramos, 37) eventually went before a … jury – and were convicted on 11 of 12 counts, by a U.S. attorney who has prosecuted any number of cases. But the facts of this case are such that I would invite everybody to take a full look at the documented record,” Snow said.
“This is not the case of the United States saying, we are not going to support people who go after drug dealers. Of course we are. We think it’s incumbent to go after drug dealers, and we also think that it’s vitally important to make sure that we provide border security so our people are secure,” he continued.
“We also believe that the people who are working to secure that border themselves obey the law. And in a court of law, these two agents were convicted on 11 of 12 counts by a jury of their peers after a lengthy trial at which they did have the opportunity to make their case,” he said.
His response came to a question from Les Kinsolving, WND’s correspondent at the White House:
“A nationally syndicated columnist, Phyllis Schlafly, reports the following, and this is a quote: ‘President Bush pardoned 16 criminals, including five drug dealers, at Christmastime, but so far has refused to pardon two U.S. Border Patrol agents who were trying to defend America against drug smugglers.’ And my question: If Mrs. Schlafly was at all inaccurate in this statement, you would surely rebut, wouldn’t you?”
Snow said he couldn’t comment about the specifics of pardons. But he said Schlafly’s reference should include the details, how “according to the facts presented in court, you had an incident in which there was an attempt to pull somebody over. He finally got pulled over; somebody holds out a gun. Sort of scuffling ensues. And what happens is you’ve got a fellow running away, and a couple of agents eventually in pursuit, firing 14 shots at him – I think 15, actually. Fourteen by one agent missed, one did strike him in the fleshy hindquarters.”
At that point yet, Snow noted, the agents “did not know if he was an illegal. They did not know that there were 700 pounds of marijuana …”
“They also have rights of appeal. So I don’t want to be acting here as – I’m not going to be judge and jury, but I do think that there’s been a characterization that somehow the government is turning a blind eye toward the law in enforcing the law. And … I think that’s the important thing. So take a look at the facts of the case.”
He said questions about the fact that the government brought the man back from Mexico and gave him immunity on charges to testify against the agents would have to be answered by a lawyer.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez
As WND has reported, five congressmen recently issued a call to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to intervene.
The lawmakers have asked President Bush to pardon Compean and Ramos, who were sentenced to 12 years and 11 years, respectively, in October. But the sentences are scheduled to begin Jan. 17, and in lieu of a pardon, the congressmen are asking Gonzalez to request the Justice Department to direct federal prosecutors not to oppose a court motion to keep the agents free on bond during the appeals process.
Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.; Ted Poe, R-Texas; Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.; and Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.; announced their request in a news conference at the nation’s capitol.
The lawmakers cited “discrepancies” in the government’s case that they said raised questions as to whether justice was being served. The members of Congress were joined by former Border Patrol agent Andy Ramirez of Friends of the Border Patrol and T.J. Bonner and Rich Pierce of the National Border Patrol Council.
Bush also has received a letter about the case from more than 50 Congress members, and Grassfire.org has an online petition calling on the president to pardon the agents.
“Two brave Border Patrol agents trying to enforce the president’s nonsensical border policy ending up being sent to prison, while an illegal alien drug smuggler is given immunity and walks free,” Rohrabacher said.
As WND has reported, a federal jury convicted the two after a two-week trial on charges of causing serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and a civil rights violation.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas issued a statement in September arguing “the defendants were prosecuted because they had fired their weapons at a man who had attempted to surrender by holding his open hands in the air, at which time Agent Compean attempted to hit the man with the butt of Compean’s shotgun, causing the man to run in fear of what the agents would do to him next.”
The statement said, “Although both agents saw that the man was not armed, the agents fired at least 15 rounds at him while he was running away from them, hitting him once.”
Ramirez of Friends of the Border Patrol said the drug smuggler has “fully contributed to the destruction of two brave agents and their families and has sent a very loud message to the other Border Patrol agents: If you confront a smuggler, this is what will happen to you.”
Snow followed up after the press briefing by faxing 12 pages of comment about the case of the border guards, including the statement from U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, as well as a guest column he wrote for the El Paso Times in October.
“Agents Compean and Ramos were not railroaded by some over-zealous prosecutor, they were unanimously found guilty by a jury in a United States federal district court after a trial that lasted more than 2 ? weeks,” he wrote in the newspaper. “The problem for Mr. Compean and Mr. Ramos is that the jury did not believe their stories because they were not true.”
“In America,” he wrote, “law-enforcement officers do not get to shoot unarmed suspects who are running away, lie about it to their supervisors and file official reports that are false. That is a crime and prosecutors cannot look the other way.”
Snow also faxed a six-page analysis of the case, with a list of unsigned myth-fact comparison statements.
On another related question, Kinsolving asked Snow: “What is the White House reaction to The Washington Times reporting that our National Guard troops in the Mexican border near Sasabe, Arizona being required to be disarmed, and who had to evacuate due to incursions by armed Mexicans?”
“Talk to the Border Patrol about that,” Snow said.
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