Gilmer Hernandez with his daughter

The federal government has recommended a seven-year prison term for Gilmer Hernandez, a Texas deputy sheriff who drew grass-roots support after he was convicted for violating the civil rights of a fleeing illegal alien, WND has learned.

In a case prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton in El Paso, who also led the high-profile prosecution of former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, Hernandez was charged after stopping a van full of illegals for running a stop sign April 14, 2005, in Rocksprings, Texas.

The driver attempted to run over Hernandez, prompting the officer to fire his weapon at the rear tires. A bullet fragment hit a Mexican national, Marciela Rodriguez Garcia, in the mouth, cutting her lip and breaking two teeth.

Hernandez’s boss, Deputy Don Lettsinger, told WND he considers the sentencing guidelines severe, especially since he believes “Deputy Hernandez should never have been indicted for this incident in the first place.”

Hernandez’s sentencing hearing has been scheduled for March 19 in the court of Robert T. Dawson from the U.S. District Court, Western Arkansas, in Port Smith, Ark. Dawson is a 1998 Clinton appointee.

“I am hopeful that Judge Dawson will deviate from the government’s guidelines, which he has the authority to do,” Lettsinger said. “I am hoping the judge saw the truth in the courtroom.”

Jimmy Parks, Hernandez’s attorney, told WND his client is “in shock at hearing this news. He’s terrified.”

Parks said Hernandez “knows that in a short time, if the judge sends him to prison, he will spend every day of the next several years trying to protect himself from the very people he dedicated his life to protect us from.”

“Gilmer worked diligently and assiduously to put criminals away, to take people who were committing dangerous crimes away, to assure that they are placed behind bars to protect us and to rehabilitate them,” Parks explained. “And now all of a sudden Gilmer is facing a time where he will be locked up in a cage with these criminals and he knows they are ready and prepared to retaliate and seek their vengeance.”

Ramos and Compean now are serving 11- and 12-year prison sentences for their part in the shooting of a Mexican drug smuggler who was given immunity to testify against them.

Parks told WND Hernandez knows his life will be in danger in prison.

“All he can think about is his little baby, Electra, will be home with his wife,” Parks said, “and him being in his position where he is going to have to pray to survive every single day.”

Ramos, after his supporters expressed similar fears, was beaten by fellow inmates following the airing of an “America’s Most Wanted” television program in which his case was featured.

As WND reported, the federal prosecution of Hernandez began only after the Mexican Consulate in Eagle Pass, Texas, wrote a series of letters demanding the Bush administration prosecute him for injuring a Mexican national.

Lettsinger believes Hernandez did nothing wrong and that the Texas Rangers were not going to recommend prosecution as a result of their investigation.

Hernandez is in federal prison, under the custody of U.S. Marshals in the Del Rio, Texas, Val Verde County detention facility.

Parks said Hernandez’s wife is devastated by news of the sentencing guidelines.

“Her husband wanted to be in law enforcement. He took his oath very seriously,” Parks said.” She never would have believed that Gilmer would be facing sentencing for a felony conviction.”

Parks expressed hope Judge Dawson would consider the guidelines as only advisory.

“The guidelines have never taken into account the extreme and extraordinary duress law enforcement officers face on the border after 9/11,” Parks said. “The guidelines have never been adjusted to reflect the pressure law enforcement on the border feels when they get directives from the Department of Homeland Security that puts an extraordinary onus upon them.”

Border Patrol officers are told they are the first line of defense from terrorist activity that comes across the border from the Middle East or Central America, including the notorious MS-13 gang, Parks argued.

“The MS-13 gang had a directive that they were to kill any police officer who pulled them over,” said Parks. “MS-13 had a special holiday called ‘Kill a Cop’ day in which they were each supposed to make an effort to kill a police officer.”

Parks said he will immediately begin preparing a response to the sentencing guidelines.

“Because of this duress and extreme heightened sensitivity to the danger law enforcement on the border faces, these guidelines are not a fair assessment of what would be a proper punishment in a case like this,” he insisted.

Parks told WND he is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support the city of Rocksprings and Del Rio County have shown Hernandez.

“This community believes that Gil Hernandez would never have committed the criminal offense with which he was charged,” Parks said. “We have been inundated with letters and phone calls on Gilmer’s behalf and these are not from people who are making rash decisions based on the apparent facts of the case. These letters and phone calls are from people who have knowledge of Gilmer’s life and his character and the love he has shown these people.”

Parks said the community outpouring of support has come about because of what Hernandez has done for the community.

“The people in Rocksprings and Edwards County feel an obligation and a responsibility to jump in on Gilmer’s behalf because of what he has done for them,” he said. “This has never happened to me before as a criminal defense lawyer.”

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