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A Department of Homeland Security memo obtained by WND indicates fingerprints were found on the vehicle abandoned by a Mexican drug smuggler who was given immunity to testify against border agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, apparently contradicting the U.S. attorney’s claim that he had no evidence to prosecute the smuggler.
U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton repeatedly has said there was no evidence at the scene on the Texas border near El Paso that would have permitted his office to investigate, find and prosecute Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, whose testimony against the officers led to prison terms of more than 10 years.
The DHS memo also documents that no fingerprint search was conducted on the vehicle until a full month after the Feb. 17, 2005, incident.
Despite repeated attempts, Sutton’s office did not return WND phone calls to comment on this story.
Andy Ramirez, who has closely followed the case as chairman of Friends of the Border Patrol, said he was disturbed that evidence in the van was handled by a combination of local, sheriff and federal law enforcement officers.
“From the scene, the vehicle is towed to the El Paso sheriff’s office,” Ramirez noted. “Then, the Border Patrol turns over the fingerprints to the El Paso Police Department for processing. DHS is involved, but only to receive a copy of the videotape made of the fingerprint processing. These law enforcement procedures are highly irregular, especially in the emotionally charged areas of border security and drug enforcement.”
From the beginning, Ramirez, insisted, “Johnny Sutton’s only interest in this case was to prosecute Ramos and Compean.”
“If Sutton wanted to capture the drug dealer, the van would have been secured, the van and its contents would have been dusted immediately for fingerprints and the chain of evidence would have been established,” he said. “Instead, the van sat there in the El Paso sheriff’s office for nearly a month before any law enforcement looks for evidence of the drug crime.”
Ramirez wondered why the FBI or the Drug Enforcement Administration was not called in immediately on the case.
“Instead, when the prosecutors finally get around to looking for fingerprint evidence, who knows how corrupted the fingerprint evidence is going to be after a month?”
A frustrated Ramirez contended Sutton was not interested in evidence from the van, because he was never out to get the drug smuggler.
“Since the fingerprint evidence would not implicate the agents, Sutton couldn’t have cared less if there was any fingerprint evidence or not,” Ramirez said. “If the fingerprint evidence could have implicated Ramos and Compean, Sutton would have been after the fingerprints with a vengeance.”
The DHS memorandum of activity was filed by Special Agent Jose L. Arredbado, March 20, 2005. The memo documents that March 17, 2005, special agent Arredbado received a copy of the vehicle towing receipt from the El Paso sheriff’s office where the vehicle had been towed from the Fabens, Texas, Border Patrol Station.
The memo indicates that March 17, 2005, Arredbado authorized the U.S. Border Patrol Evidence Team to enter the compound and dust the vehicle for fingerprints. The team found 11 fingerprints, three of which were duplicates. The prints were taken to the El Paso Police Department for processing, with an agreement to turn the findings and report over to the DHS Office of Inspector General upon completion.
A towing receipt obtained by WND shows the vehicle Aldrete-Davila drove was a silver 1989 Ford Econoline with Texas plates that was taken to the Fabens, Texas, Border Patrol Station, Feb. 18, 2005, the day after the incident with Aldrete-Davila that has led to the imprisonment of Ramos and Compean.
The towing receipt indicates the Ford Econoline remained at the Alba Wrecker Service in El Paso for 18 days, until March 7, 2005. The DHS report indicates Alba transported the vehicle to the El Paso sheriff’s vehicle compound March 10, 2005, a discrepancy with the March 7, 2005, date noted on the Alba towing receipt.
The towing receipt indicates the bill went to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Crossed out is an initial designation that indicates the bill was originally intended to go to the Border Patrol.
John Godinez, assistant to Mary Stillinger, the defense counsel for Ignacio Ramos, told WND his office was aware there were some fingerprints found on the van, but the defense had not pursued the issue. Mr. Godinez affirmed that during the Ramos-Compean trial, the prosecution did not introduce into evidence the fingerprints or any of the documentary evidence regarding the fingerprints. Proving that the van was driven by Aldrete-Davila was never in contention in the trial after the prosecution gave the drug smuggler immunity to testify.
In his Jan. 19 exclusive interview with WND, prosecutor Sutton strongly maintained there was nothing at the crime scene that would have permitted him to identify and pursue the fleeing Mexican drug smuggler.
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. 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.
As we WND previously reported, Sutton stated a Mexican lawyer brought Aldrete-Davila forward, without revealing the drug smuggler’s identity, until immunity had been granted. However, WND can find no documentation any such Mexican lawyer was involved.
DHS investigative memos make clear that Border Patrol agent Rene Sanchez in Wilcox, Ariz., identified Aldrete-Davila only days after the Feb. 17, 2005 incident, obtaining his information through family connections. Sanchez grew up with Aldrete-Davila in Mexico.
The information about Aldrete-Davila’s identity was then passed on by Sanchez to DHS special agent Christopher Sanchez, who went to Mexico and found Aldrete-Davila.
This Christopher Sanchez is the same DHS special agent the DHS memo on the fingerprints says received the videotape of the El Paso Police Department fingerprint search on the drug smuggler’s abandoned vehicle.