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New evidence suggests prosecuting U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton of El Paso lied about how the government found the fleeing illegal alien Mexican drug smuggler, Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, according to a Border Patrol advocate closely following the case of former agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.
Contrary to claims, no Mexican attorney was involved as an intermediary offering to reveal the identity of the drug smuggler and bring him back to the U.S. in exchange for given immunity to testify against Border Patrol, contended Andy Ramirez, chairman of Friends of the Border Patrol.
“It’s shocking how much lying Johnny Sutton has done about Aldrete-Davila,” he told WND.
“The government made a deal with the devil to put Ramos and Compean behind bars,” Ramirez said. “Sutton’s story about the lawyer in Mexico is a total fabrication, completely and maliciously false. The government knew Aldrete-Davila’s identity from Border Patrol and DHS sources almost immediately after the event.”
Commenting to WND for this story, Sutton insisted there was insufficient evidence to charge the drug smuggler, who was in a foreign country, which would have made it difficult to extradite him.
Ramirez told WND the information came from Rene Sanchez, a Border Patrol agent who was stationed a sector away from El Paso, in Wilcox, Ariz., a small town some 80 miles east of Tucson on Interstate 10.
According to Ramirez, Sanchez and Aldrete-Davila grew up together in San Ysidro, Mexico, and they have remained life-long friends.
Sanchez’s mother-in-law and Aldrete-Davila’s mother also have remained good friends. Sanchez was notified by his mother-in-law that Aldrete-Davila had been shot. She reportedly heard about the incident from friends in Mexico, possibly even from Aldrete-Davila’s mother.
Ramirez next reports Rene Sanchez, according to a Department of Homeland Security memorandum of activity document, began querying the Border Patrol Tracking System and found that the Fabens Border Patrol Station seized a load of marijuana Feb. 17, 2005.
In sworn testimony Andy Ramirez gave on Aug.17, 2006, to the U.S. House Committee of Judiciary, Ramirez continues the narrative from there:
Rene Sanchez calls the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at DHS and speaks to a Special Agent Christopher Sanchez who was a four-month trainee in OIG. Previously Sanchez served as an ICE agent in Arizona before lateraling over to OIG. Chris Sanchez began investigating the case on March 4, 2005. This is when the agents learn that there was a claim that the smuggler was wounded two weeks before during the incident at Fabens.
Eventually, Chris Sanchez goes to Mexico and brings Davila back to El Paso and the William Beaumont Army Medical Center and has a fragment of a bullet removed. The chain of evidence, including custody gets really murky at this point and the agents (Ramos and Compean) are arrested, charged, and arraigned within days.
Ramirez next testified to the House Judiciary Committee that agent Rene Sanchez’s mother-in-law was also involved in driving Aldrete-Davila into El Paso for his hospital treatments at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center. These trips allegedly were coordinated through DHS Special Agent Christopher Sanchez, who quickly became the government’s manager of Aldrete-Davila in the U.S.
According to Ramirez, agent Sanchez was the one who then assisted Aldrete-Davila in finding a U.S. attorney to sue Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean in a civil case charging the agents had violate his civil rights by discharging their weapons at him in a criminal fashion as he was running away to evade arrest. WND has been unable to find any Mexican attorney who represents Aldrete-Davila.
Ramirez believes understanding how Aldrete-Davila was found is a key piece to understanding the prosecution’s prejudice against Ramos and Compean:
The government did have a choice to prosecute the drug dealer they had identified as the suspect, he insisted. Instead attorney Sutton and his office decided to give the likely drug smuggler immunity so he could testify against Ramos and Compean.
Ramirez was emphatic in his conclusion.
“If the truth about how the government got their hands on Aldrete-Davila had been told to the jury, there is no way the jury would have believed a word of his story that he was unarmed.”
In the Jan. 19 WND interview with Sutton, a reference to Aldrete-Davila’s family seemed at the time to contradict Sutton’s claim that Aldrete-Davila came forth from a Mexican lawyer seeking immunity. In explaining why his office did not seek to prosecute Aldrete-Davila, Sutton commented in the interview that:
The agents put us in a situation where there was no way to prove in a court that Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila was connected to that load of marijuana. We would not even known about him had he not come and the investigators for Homeland Security been able to find him through his family.
Now, in the context of the information provided by Andy Ramirez about the connection between agent Rene Sanchez and Aldrete-Davila’s families in Mexico, Sutton’s comment apparently corroborate Ramirez’s account. The DHS agent Sutton to which Sutton referred could be Chris Sanchez, who was working with Aldrete-Davila’s family in Mexico to bring the suspect back to the U.S.
From the beginning of the case, Sutton has claimed he could not prosecute the drug smuggler because the fleeing Mexican got away and left no fingerprints on his van at the scene Feb. 17, 2005. The van was found to contain 743 pounds of marijuana. Aldrete-Davila abandoned the vehicle to head for the Rio Grande on foot, determined to evade arrest from the Border Patrol in hot pursuit.
“Sutton’s attempt to make his decision to prosecute Ramos and Compean look sympathetic falls apart once we realize the government had found the suspect, contrary to Sutton’s claims that finding the suspect was impossible,” Ramirez told WND. “Yet, apparently attempting to cover up the truth, Sutton has stuck to his story that Aldrete-Davila came forward through a Mexican lawyer who shielded the identity of his client until the government gave his client immunity.”
Sutton has consistently claimed that without fingerprints, the prosecution had no alternative but to abandon the idea of prosecuting the perpetrator of the cross-border drug delivery.
Yet, somehow, Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila showed up back in the U.S. as a guest of the government. Once Aldrete-Davila was back in the U.S., a U.S. Army doctor removed a bullet that entered his right groin after passing through the left side of his left buttocks. All this was engineered by Sutton’s office, in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security, aimed toward obtaining from Aldrete-Davila ballistics evidence that would prove Ramos and Compean had fired and hit Aldrete-Davila as he fled.
WND separately has reported the ballistics evidence failed to tie the weapon fired by agent Ramos with the bullet removed from Aldrete-Davila by the U.S. Army doctor.
Since Aldrete-Davila escaped the scene without being apprehended, Sutton had no way to prove definitively the drug smuggler had been unarmed, unless he could give Aldrete-Davila immunity and obtain his testimony on the stand.
Proving that Aldrete-Davila was unarmed was a central part of Sutton’s case arguing Ramos and Compean had committed assault with the intent to kill under 18 U.S.C., Section 113(a)(c) and seeking to add 10-year mandatory sentences for having committed this assault with their weapons, in violation of 18 U.S. Section 924(c). If Aldrete-Davila was a fleeing, armed drug smuggling suspect, then Sutton simply had no case against Ramos and Compean.
WND previously has reported on a letter Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., wrote to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Oct. 11, 2006, arguing 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c) was the wrong statute under which to prosecute Ramos and Compean.
Ramirez told WND that charging Ramos and Compean with 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c) showed the determination of the prosecutors to pile on as much prison time as possible on the two agents. The statute carries a mandatory 10-year sentence as additional punishment for carrying or using a weapon in a violent crime, such as rape or drug smuggling.
In his interview with WND, Ramirez charged the government found Aldrete-Davila in an independent investigative manner that would have permitted Sutton to have prosecuted the drug dealer. Instead, Sutton decided to offer Aldrete-Davila immunity and free government-paid medical care, provided he would return to the U.S. and testify against the Border Patrol agents.
In the Jan. 19 interview, WND questioned Sutton about how Aldrete-Davila had been found.
The following exchange contains Sutton’s answer:
WND: So, Aldrete-Davila ran away, and as you say, at the time you didn’t have any basis to know who he was and there were no fingerprints. But yet, you found the guy. If you found the guy to give him immunity, why couldn’t you have found the guy to punish him?
SUTTON: The way we found him is that he came forward and was in Mexico with a lawyer. So, the only way to get him to testify was to give him immunity from being prosecuted. He wasn’t going to agree to come to the United States, he wasn’t going to agree to talk, unless he had some kind of immunity from being prosecuted for that load.
Sutton’s story is that the government’s first contact establishing Aldrete-Davila was the run-away drug smuggler came from a Mexican attorney representing him, in an offer of testimony in exchange for immunity.
The prosecutor contends the government could not prosecute Aldrete-Davila because it could not identify him.
WND: People are going to say once the guy came forward, regardless why he came forward, you knew it was him. You could go get him. He made an admission.
SUTTON: But, remember, he didn’t make an admission. He refused to make an admission until his lawyer had an agreement for use immunity. He wouldn’t come to the United States and we couldn’t extradite him because, number one, we didn’t have any evidence against him, and, number two, we didn’t have a case. It’s one of those situations where we gave up very little by giving him use immunity in this case because we couldn’t prove a case against him. He did not make admissions until we agreed to give him immunity for what he was saying. We’re in a terrible dilemma. We’ve got a corrupt drug runner and we’ve got corrupt officers who committed serious crimes and covered them up. We can either let everyone go free, or you can prosecute the one case that is prosecutable, which is serious and that involves the officers. Unfortunately, the case against Aldrete-Davila was not prosecutable because of these agents. There was no way to link Aldrete-Davila with that load of marijuana.
According to Ramirez’s account, however, the identity of the drug smuggler was known to agent Rene Sanchez, who passed the information on to DHS agent Chris Sanchez.
Apparently, Sanchez even went to Mexico to work with Aldrete-Davila and his family, which Ramirez argues should have given the prosecution ample probable cause to make the link between the 743-pound load of marijuana brought into the U.S. and Aldrete-Davila as the perpetrator.
Still, in the Jan. 19 interview, Sutton insisted his office had no choice but to give the drug smuggler immunity.
He (Aldrete-Davila) wasn’t going to agree to come to the United States, he wasn’t going to agree to talk, unless he had some kind of immunity from being prosecuted for that load. So, that puts the prosecutor in the terrible choice of everyone goes free, we got no case against the dope dealer, we cannot make a case against the dope dealer because there’s no evidence thanks to agents and other factors. And we’ve got two agents on the line who we know have lied, covered up evidence, shot 15 times at an unarmed suspect running away. So we had to make a decision and there very difficult to make. Prosecutors in this country make those decisions every day. In some instances, we have to give what is known as “use immunity,” which allows whatever that person says in court not to be used against them. Now, if I could prove up the case another way, without using the words of Aldrete-Davila himself, we could prosecute the case. If I had a provable case that Aldrete-Davila had committed other crimes, I could prosecute him.
According to Ramirez’s account of events, the government could have chosen to press Mexico to extradite the drug smuggler, seeking to remove the bullet from Aldrete-Davila’s body to use as evidence against him, not against Ramos and Compean.
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