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Investigators had no plans to bring charges against Texas Sheriff’s Deputy Gilmer Hernandez until the Mexican government intervened and demanded it, the officer’s supervisor told WND.
Sheriff Don Letsinger of Rocksprings, Texas, said the Texas Rangers were not going to recommend prosecution, but federal law enforcement took over the case in response to the Mexican government’s intervention.
Also, in the high-profile case of border agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, the Department of Homeland Security investigation was opened March 4, 2005, the same date the Mexican Consulate demanded prosecution for the shooting of drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, according to numerous agency investigative reports authored by Special Agent Christopher Sanchez.
WND can find no documentation of any Border Patrol investigation launched against Ramos or Compean prior to that date.
In both trials, WND has uncovered indications the prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, withheld key, possibly exculpatory, information from the defense and the juries.
Hernandez stopped a van full of illegals for running a stop sign April 14, 2005, in Rocksprings. The driver attempted to run over Hernandez, prompting the officer to fire his weapon at the rear tires. A bullet fragment hit a Mexican woman in the mouth, cutting her lip and breaking two teeth. Hernandez, convicted of felony civil rights violations, is incarcerated in Del Rio, Texas, awaiting sentencing.
“Deputy Hernandez had a right to stop that vehicle,” Letsinger told WND. “Can you look at what happened and say that Deputy Hernandez intentionally wanted to injure someone in that vehicle? You cannot. Deputy Hernandez did not want to injure anyone that day. He fired at the tires to stop the vehicle and he was justified in doing so.”
In early 2006, Letsinger suspected the FBI was conducting a criminal investigation against Hernandez in Edwards County when he was notified by the Little Miracle Child’s Care in Rocksprings that two FBI agents and a Texas Ranger had come to the child care center and interviewed Ashley, Hernandez’s wife, for several hours without any advance warning.
“Ashley became very upset by the FBI visit,” Letsinger said, “and so did the director of the child care center.”
Up to that point, Hernandez had continued to perform his normal law enforcement duties under the direction of Letsinger.
WND has established the timeline in the Hernandez case:
- April 14, 2005 – the shooting incident involving the van of speeding illegal immigrants in Rocksprings, Texas.
- April 18, 2005 – as previously reported by WND, the Mexican Consulate in Eagle Pass, Texas, writes Letsinger demanding the incident not go unpunished.
- April 20, 2005 – the Mexican consulate in Eagle Pass writes Norman Townsend of the FBI in Laredo, Texas, a similar letter demanding punishment in the incident.
- April 29, 2005 – Letsinger advises Texas Ranger agent Robert Smith that state and local law enforcement have been removed from the Hernandez investigation and the FBI and the federal government were taking over.
- Early 2006 – FBI interviews Ashley Hernandez at the Little Miracle Child’s Care.
- June 7, 2006 – Gilmer Hernandez is indicted under 18 U.S.C. section 242 for violating the civil rights of illegal alien Maricela Rodriguez Garcia and prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton begins.
Letsinger insisted nothing would have happened without Mexico’s intervention.
“Without a letter from the Mexican consulate,” he told WND, “I do not believe federal authorities would have gotten involved in the case.”
He was equally firm, after reading the investigative report, that the Texas Ranger probe against Hernandez would not have resulted in a grand jury indictment.
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, told WND it appears the Mexican government was “the driving force in the Hernandez case.
“The Mexican government wanted a Texas deputy sheriff prosecuted and they got their way,” he said.
Poe expressed confidence in the report by Texas Ranger Bobby Smith not recommending prosecution.
“In my 30 years experience in law enforcement, the Texas Rangers have as good a reputation as Scotland Yard, precisely because the Texas Rangers don’t play favorites with anybody,” he said. “Whatever the Texas Rangers recommends is, in my experience, always the way justice truly prevails in the case.”
Poe was adamant that the Hernandez prosecution was unwarranted.
“In this case, it comes across that the Mexican government arrogantly demanded prosecution and our federal government succumbed to the pressure,” he said. “Unfortunately, the rest is history.”
Letsinger contended that if the federal grand jury had heard “the whole truth of what transpired,” Hernandez would have been indicted.
“The statements by the prosecution that Gilmer Hernandez had chased the illegals across a pasture, cursing them and shooting at them were completely false,” he said. “The Texas Ranger and a federal ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) agent and an ATF dog were taken to that location. That dog searched that location thoroughly and could find no shell casings. When the dog failed to find the shell casings, the officers used a metal detector to search the field thoroughly and failed to find any shell casings.”
Letsinger added he has no way of knowing for sure what the federal grand jury was told or was not told.
He suspects “the grand jury was told about the shell casings, but most probably not about the law enforcement search that failed to find the shell casings.”
Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean
In the Ramos-Compean case, WND previously reported March 4, 2005 as the date the Mexican consulate intervened with Sutton’s office, according to notes from a staff member of the Texas Republican congressional delegation that attended a Sept. 26, 2006, briefing with three DHS investigators from the Inspector General’s office.
According to the staffer’s notes:
Several weeks later (following the February 17, 2005 incident involving Aldrete-Davila at the border), the Mexican Consulate contacted the U.S. Consulate in Mexico saying that they have a person who claims to have been shot by a Border Patrol agent. On March 4 2005, the U.S. Consulate contacted the U.S. Attorney.
WND has obtained many DHS “memoranda of activity” written by Special Agent Sanchez, all of which begin with the same first paragraph documenting the DHS investigation in the Ramos-Compean case was initiated March 4, 2005.
At trial, Border Patrol Agent Rene Sanchez testified (trial transcript Volume VI, page 239) he wrote a memo to his supervisor, dated March 3, 2005, documenting a phone call he had Feb. 28, 2005, with his mother-in-law, who disclosed to him the identity of the drug smuggler Aldrete-Davila. As WND reported, Rene Sanchez grew up in Mexico a friend of Aldrete-Davila’s brother.
DHS Agent Christopher Sanchez testified (trial transcript Volume VI, page 266) Rene Sanchez’s March 3, 2005 memo was handed to him, along with an accompanying memo written by Rene Sanchez’s supervisor, at the start of his DHS investigation on or about March 4, 2005.
From Feb. 17, 2005, until they were arrested March 18, 2005, Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean continued their normal duties. There is no record in the documents examined by WND or the trial transcript that Rene Sanchez’s March 3, 2005, memo had initiated any formal Border Patrol investigation of Ramos or Compean.
The congressional staff notes from the Sept. 26, 2006, meeting indicates the Mexican Consulate knew Aldrete-Davila’s identity when its March 4, 2005, contact was made to the U.S. government, independently of Rene Sanchez’s investigation.
WND reported a potentially exculpatory DHS investigative report was withheld from the defense, in likely violation of both the Jencks Act and the Brady standard.
WND has also reported information concerning a second drug offense Aldrete-Davila committed while under immunity to testify against Ramos and Compean was withheld from the jury and sealed by Judge Kathleen Cardone at the trial.
Hernandez is under the custody of U.S. Marshals in at the Val Verde County detention facility in Del Rio. Hernandez is scheduled to be sentenced on March 12, the day President Bush is scheduled to be in Mexico meeting with Mexican President Calderon.
Ramos and Compean are also in federal prison, serving 11- and 12-year sentences respectively. They are preparing appeals but have been denied freedom on bond.
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