Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean (KFOX-TV, El Paso, Texas)
A series of unexplained discrepancies and contradictions mar the Report of Investigation that was released recently by the Department of Homeland Security to Congress over the case involving former U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.
For example, the heavily redacted report left unclear what the relationship is between Willcox, Ariz-based Border Patrol agent Rene Sanchez and drug smuggler Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, with whom Sanchez supposedly grew up in Mexico.
Ramos and Compean were charged, tried and convicted of shooting Aldrete-Davil, a fleeing drug smuggler, in the buttocks. They were given sentences of 11 and 12 years in prison, while federal prosecutors granted the drug smuggler immunity to return to the United States and testify against the law enforcement officers. The circumstances of the case have outraged many concerned over the problems of illegal immigration and running drugs from Mexico into the United States. Dozens of members of Congress as well as several activist groups have called for the officers to be pardoned.
But the investigation into the record is further complicated, not only by the redactions in the report, but by the failure of the U.S. District Court in El Paso to produce a transcript of the trial, now some 11 months after the trial was completed. Moreover, the Homeland Security document refers to many investigative reports not included in the redacted report.
Similarly unanswered is exactly who Aldrete-Davila is and how he entered the United States on Feb. 17, 2005. Government investigators and the prosecutor do not have a consistent answer to this important question, one considered central to the entire case.
“The prosecutors did not know who Aldrete-Davila really was,” Andy Ramirez, chairman of Friends of the Border Patrol told WND, “nor did they care to find out. Once [prosecutor] Johnny Sutton found the drug smuggler, he set his mind on prosecuting the Border Patrol agents. There is nothing in the record to suggest Sutton ever spent a single minute investigating the drug smuggler for prosecution, or finding out who might be related to the drug smuggler that he could prosecute.”
WND presented Ramirez with four conflicting versions of Aldrete-Davila’s identity, based on official government documents and testimony.
The first version emerges from Homeland Security investigative reports filed by Special Agent Christopher Sanchez, which typically start out with the same paragraph. An example is the memorandum filed on March 24, 2005, and included in the recent report to Congress.
In that report, Christopher Sanchez writes that “Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, a Mexican national, was shot by an unknown BP Agent while attempting to cross into the United States.” This is version one – that Aldrete-Davila was shot while attempting to enter the United States from Mexico. It makes Aldrete-Davila sound as if he were a typical illegal immigrant coming into the United States, possibly even to find work to feed his family.
Ramirez commented, on the first version, that “if you believed this version, Aldrete-Davila had nothing to do with the drugs whatsoever. This is the cosmetic version, the version designed to make Aldrete-Davila a complete victim of the rogue Border Patrol just out to kill a Mexican.”
Version two can be found in the “Details” section of the Homeland Security report. Here, evidently based on his statements given after being given immunity, readers are told Aldrete-Davila needed “over $1,000 to pay for his medical bills and to renew his Mexican government license equivalent to a commercial driver’s license, without which he was not able to work.”
Fortunately for Aldrete-Davila, according to this version, “an acquaintance in Mexico approached Aldrete-Davila and told him he could earn $1,500 to drive a load of drugs to a stash house in the United States.” The report says Aldrete-Davila agreed and “was instructed where to cross the border into the United States, and was told where to find a gray van loaded with drugs.” According to this version, Aldrete-Davila was to drive to [information redacted], where he “would encounter another vehicle that would guide him to the stash house.”
“Version two makes Aldrete-Davila appear a sympathetic poor Mexican who was just looking for a way to earn some extra money,” Ramirez commented. “What could be more heartbreaking that a disadvantaged Mexican who would do anything to get needed medical care. The statement even suggests that all Aldrete-Davila wanted to do was earn some money so he could get back his commercial driver license to earn an honest living.”
Ramirez also noted that in version two Aldrete-Davila has to cross the border on foot, pick up the drug car, and follow-the-leader to the stash house. “Why would any organized drug cartel ever set up a drug delivery this way? It’s absurd to think that if the cartel could load the van with marijuana they needed a Mexican to come across the Rio Grande to drive it to the stash house. Maybe prosecutors think this way, but professional drug dealers don’t.”
Ramirez also noted that version two is important in that it suggests a reason why government investigators and Sutton’s office never bothered to check out the cell phone left in the drug van.
“Maybe the cell phone found in the abandoned van belonged to somebody else,” Ramirez suggested. “If the cell phone were not Aldrete-Davila’s, then prosecutor U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton might not be lying when he claims that there was no evidence whatsoever, except for Aldrete-Davila’s own testimony, to tie him to the drug smuggling crime.”
Version three occurs in the testimony at trial. While the entire transcript has not yet been completed or released, WND has obtained the trial testimony of Border Patrol Agents Arturo Vasquez, David Jacquez and Oscar Juarez, all of whom were involved in the Feb. 17, 2005, incident for which Ramos and Compean are now imprisoned. All three were also given immunity to testify for the prosecution.
According to version three, the 1989 Ford Econoline Aldrete-Davila was driving was first detected at the border by Compean, who evidently picked up the information from sensors along the border.
“This version probably gets closer to the truth,” Ramirez commented. “The only problem is that in this version elements of the other versions disappear. Gone is the suggestion Aldrete-Davila walked across the border to find the drug car. Gone is any lead car taking Aldrete-Davila to the stash house.”
Agents Vasquez and Juarez both testified that they were cruising near the levee where the incident ends when they heard Compean put out a “code 1046” radio call that he was pursuing a van headed northbound from the levee. Both agents Vasquez and Juarez were initially confused about whether the van was full-size or a minivan, and both were confused about whether they were looking for a blue or a gray van. Within a few minutes, both agents identified the van and joined Compean in hot pursuit.
Code 1046 indicates Compean suspected they were pursuing a drug-trafficking offender. The border crossing route where Compean first detected the vehicle was known to be a drug route.
As WND has previously reported, Vasquez and Jacquez have subsequently been ousted by the Border Patrol because of their many changed versions and inconsistencies between various statements. Jacquez resigned before he could be fired.
Version four comes from prosecutor Debra Kanof’s opening statement at trial. Kanof told the jury that they would hear Aldrete-Davila testify “he was trying to make it back to Mexico” when he turned his vehicle and headed south back to the border in response to the flashing lights of the Border Patrol agents in pursuit.
“With Kanof at trial, we’re back to the good Mexican just trying to get home,” Ramirez noted. “What all these different versions neglect to mention is that Aldrete was a professional drug cartel mule who has been smuggling drugs into the United States since he was 14 years old.”
WND has previously reported that Aldrete-Davila was involved in a second drug smuggling incident that involved postponement of the Ramos-Compean trial while the prosecution scrambled to protect the credibility of their star witness. WND has also reported that at trial, Judge Kathleen Cardone sealed from the jury any discussion of Aldrete-Davila’s subsequent drug offense.
“Looking through the entire record developed by the government and the prosecutor,” Ramirez points out, “I don’t see a single instance where Johnny Sutton ever tried to find out who Aldrete-Davila worked for in Mexico or who he was connected with in the United States. We might have broken a drug ring here, but instead we get two experienced Border Patrol agents behind bars.”
Supporting Ramirez’s contention is a statement of the redacted Homeland Security report, noting, “Aldrete-Davila refused to provide information on the drug trafficking organization (DTO) that had hired him to smuggle drugs on February 17, 2005. Aldrete-Davila also advised that he did not want to provide information on the DTO for fear of what the DTO might do to him and/or his family, adding that the DTO knew where he and his family lived and worked.”
Ramirez remains suspicious of the various government/prosecution versions. “I wonder who they were protecting?” Ramirez asked. “What happens when Aldrete-Davila gets caught a second time smuggling drugs into the United States. Is Debra Kanof going to retract the statement that all Aldrete-Davila wanted was his commercial driving license in Mexoco? I don’t think so.”
“What we have here,” Ramirez told WND, “is an emerging government record that suggests the prosecution never seriously attempted to prosecute drug dealers, even when they had their hands on a guy who might have led them to a wider net. Where’s the cell phone now? Maybe we can still get some useful information in this case which would actually let us capture some drug criminals.”