In light of the Drug Enforcement Agency and Department of Homeland Security investigative reports proving Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila’s second drug offense, the lies he told under oath during the Ramos-Compean trial are apparent.
With the trial transcript validating that prosecutor U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton had information about Aldrete-Davila’s second incident sealed from the jury and the public, the question now is whether Sutton suborned perjury in advancing Aldrete-Davila’s testimony rather than allowing the truth to come forward about the second incident, at the risk of discrediting his key witness against the two Border Patrol officers – men who now sit behind bars being convicted for shooting and wounding Aldrete-Davila, a Mexican drug smuggler.
Attorney Jeri Word, who writes a blog that has analyzed the Ramos-Compean case, told WND, “It is puzzling that a prosecutor would use his prosecutorial discretion to file a case on the basis of a witness who obfuscates and ducks like Aldrete-Davila did.”
Let’s review the lies Aldrete-Davila told at trial.
1. OAD testified that he walked across the Rio Grande from Mexico to find the van waiting for him on the U.S. side of the river.
In cross-examination with Ramos’ defense attorney, Mary Stillinger, we find the following exchange (trial transcript, Vol. VII, page 153):
Stillinger: OK. And did you cross the river that day to come into the United States?
Stillinger: OK. Actually, that’s kind of a silly question, because you have to cross the river. But what I meant is, did you enter through a port of entry, or did you cross the river on foot, where there’s not a bridge?
Aldrete-Davila: I crossed the river walking, where the van was.
Next, Stillinger moves to establish Aldrete-Davila’s testimony that he found the van on a dirt road. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose Luis Gonzalez objects. In a sidebar discussion with Judge Kathleen Cardone, Stillinger explains that she is trying to establish that Aldrete-Davila was not just a mule, as he was maintaining. Moreover, Stillinger points out that Aldrete-Davila, by lying, has broken his grant of immunity. In her comments to the judge, Stillinger alludes to the defense suspicion that Border Patrol Agent Rene Sanchez, a family friend of Aldrete-Davila from San Ysidro, Mexico, is working as a double-agent in this case.
Stillinger tells the judge (VII, page 155):
For instance, if this were his marijuana, that would be very important, because he’s not just a mule, and he gets more points for that and would have a heavier sentence.
Yet Aldrete-Davila insists he came across the border on foot and that he was instructed to find the van, although he was not told what he was to find in the van.
Stillinger continues the cross-examination (VII, pages 158-159):
Stillinger: How did you know to pick the van up right there?
Aldrete-Davila: Because from the Mexican side, where I was going to cross the river, I could see the van, that it was there.
Stillinger: OK. But you didn’t just happen to see a van and say, I think I will drive that van away. Did you know the van had something in it?
Aldrete-Davila: It’s logical, yes.
Stillinger: It’s logical. OK. Did somebody tell you that?
Aldrete-Davila: Of course.
Stillinger: And what did they tell you about what was in the van?
Aldrete-Davila: They didn’t tell me exactly what it had. I mean, they just said that I was going to drive it. I mean, they didn’t say it has this much or it has this other.
2. Aldrete-Davila testifies that he knew the van had drugs, but he did not know the drugs were marijuana, not even after he got in the van and began driving.
Stillinger establishes in cross-examination (VII, pages 159-160) that Aldrete-Davila was paid $1,000 to $1,500 to go across the Rio Grande and find the drug van. He was instructed to drive the drug van and he knew the van would contain drugs, but he didn’t know what the drugs would be.
Stillinger: Were you being paid to drive the van?
Aldrete-Davila: They were going to pay me. They hadn’t paid me anything.
Stillinger: And what were they going to pay you?
Aldrete-Davila: They said it was going to be between 1,000 and 1,500.
Stillinger: And, from your experience, did you have a belief about what would be in the van?
Gonzales: Objection, Your Honor, assumes facts not in evidence, what his experience is.
The Court: All right. I’ll sustain. Restate the question.
Stillinger: Did you have a belief about what was in this van?
Aldrete-Davila: Well, only that they had told me it was drugs. But it wasn’t like they had told me – I mean, it wasn’t like I knew what it was or what it had. I mean, I couldn’t say I already knew what was in it.
Stillinger: OK. So, as far as you knew, before you crossed to get this van, you knew it was drugs, but you didn’t know if it was marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or anything else. Is that fair?
Aldrete: Yes. It’s true. I didn’t know.
Stillinger: OK. And when you crossed the van, I guess – you’re saying you could see it from the Mexican side, correct?
Stillinger: OK. And did it have keys in it waiting for you?
Aldrete-Davila: Yes, they were on the ignition.
Stillinger: OK. So I take it you did not see the van loaded. Is that correct?
Stillinger: OK. And you took the keys, got in the van. Did you happen to look in the back of the van?
Aldrete-Davila: No. I got – I got in the van and I took the keys. I didn’t get the keys and get into the van. And I didn’t look back.
Aldrete-Davila resolutely testified that he did not look into the back of the van to see the marijuana bundles. At this point, the prosecution and the defense attorneys get into a debate with the judge. The defense attorneys find it unbelievable that Aldrete-Davila never even turned around once he was in the van to see the marijuana bundles. Cardone gets impatient, saying, “Everybody knows there was marijuana back there.” In a remarkable sequence, Cardone instructs a judicial assistant to find some scissors, so she can have ordered part of a picture exhibit of the drug van cut off and thrown away.
When cross-examination resumes (VII, pages 164-165), Aldrete-Davila testifies that he did not realize the drugs were marijuana and he did not think about the huge quantity (743 pounds) of marijuana bundles that were packed into the van.
Stillinger: And, Mr. Aldrete, when you got in the van, then, and you saw all these very large bundles, at that point, did you realize you were carrying marijuana.
Stillinger: OK. Mr. Aldrete, what did you think was in these bundles?
Aldrete-Davila: Well, nothing came to mind. I mean, there’s a lot of things that can be crossed.
Stillinger: What else did you suppose might be in these bundles besides marijuana? If you could, give us some examples.
Aldrete-Davila: Well, it’s not that I suppose anything. I mean, everybody knows there’s a lot of different things that get crossed, a lot of types of drugs. And I don’t know how they package those drugs. I don’t know if they package them in big bundles, if it’s cocaine, if it’s anything like that. I – I don’t have any idea of the different drugs that are crossed.
Aldrete-Davila dodged every attempt defense attorneys made to get him to admit he knew the drugs were marijuana. Aldrete-Davila testified he didn’t know anything about how marijuana was pressed or packed. Under cross-examination by Compean’s attorney, Maria Ramirez (Vol. VIII, page 23), Aldrete-Davila even denied that the 743 pounds of marijuana packaged in the van had any smell in the face of testimony of Border Patrol agents at the scene that the odor was strong.
Ramirez: OK. And – OK. When you got in the van, did it smell like marijuana?
Aldrete-Davila: I didn’t notice any odor.
Throughout cross-examination, Aldrete-Davila insisted he was a drug novice. He admitted only to knowing that there were drugs in the van and that it was illegal in the United States to be driving a van containing drugs.
Aldrete-Davila testified that the only way he knew the drugs in the van were marijuana was from television news reports after the incident. He said this to explain an apparent contradiction between his testimony that on the day of the incident he didn’t know the drugs in the van were marijuana, yet in his discussions with investigators subsequently he volunteered that he had transported marijuana.
3. Aldrete-Davila testified that he expected that after he found and started the drug van on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, he would then encounter another car that would lead him to the drug stash house.
Continuing with cross-examination (VII, pages 173-174), Stillinger establishes that Aldrete-Davila’s testimony continues to be that he knew virtually nothing about this drug shipment. So, Aldrete-Davila did not know who loaded the van and parked it for him to find and he did not realize the van was containing marijuana. Moreover, he did not know where he was supposed to drive the van.
Stillinger: OK. But I think you said to me earlier that this is where you thought you would run into somebody that would tell you where to take the marijuana – or take your cargo.
Aldrete-Davila: When I would turn left into Alameda, I was going to meet up with a car. It wasn’t going to be exactly right there. As I moved along Alameda, I was going to run into a vehicle that was going to signal me.
Stillinger: OK. And tell you where to take your cargo, correct?
Aldrete-Davila: Yes. They just told me he was going to signal me, and for me to follow him.
4. Aldrete-Davila testified that he ran from the Border Patrol vehicles in hot pursuit because he was scared. According to his testimony, Aldrete-Davila’s only concern was to get himself, not the vehicle, back to Mexico. He ran from the Border Patrol because he wanted to go home.
Consider this segment of cross-examination (VII, page 175):
Stillinger: And you said it’s your intention to go back to Mexico. Was it your intention to try to get the van back to Mexico, also?
Aldrete-Davila: No, just me.
Stillinger: OK. You weren’t worried about getting in trouble – getting in trouble – if you went back without that van?
Aldrete-Davila: I didn’t think about it at that time. All I wanted was to get back myself.
Stillinger: OK. And you wanted to get back because you were concerned that you could be arrested, correct?
Stillinger: OK. And you were concerned that you could go to jail, correct?
Stillinger: And did you have any idea what kind of jail time you could be looking at if you were caught with that marijuana?
Aldrete-Davila: No. I didn’t even know it was marijuana.
Stillinger establishes that Aldrete-Davila resisted arrest by exceeding the speed limit and trying to avoid the pursuing Border Patrol agents who were flashing their emergency lights indicating to him to stop. Note that Aldrete-Davila seems to consider in his answer making an argument that because the pursuing Border Patrol did not use a microphone to yell, “Stop,” that he did not understand the Border Patrol wanted him to stop. But, evidently, even Aldrete-Davila rejects this particular lie as too preposterous to seriously propose.
Stillinger: OK. And you made a conscious decision at that point that you were going to try to run away from the Border Patrol?
Aldrete-Davila: Not at the time that they turned on their emergency lights. From the moment I turned, I wanted to go back to Mexico.
Stillinger: OK. I understand. From – from the moment you saw the Border Patrol vehicle, you – that’s when you decided you were going to run away from them. Is that right?
Stillinger: OK. But when he turns on his emergency lights, you know that he’s telling – signaling to you to stop. So that’s the first time you do not follow, I guess, the – the commands of the Border Patrol agent, correct?
Aldrete-Davila: Yes, I understand. I mean, when they’ve given me some kind of infraction, they not only turn on the emergency lights, they sometimes call out to you and talk to you. And so, I mean, they did turn the emergency – he did turn on the emergency light. But, I mean, he didn’t say, Hey, stop, or whatever. So I went on.
Stillinger: OK. But you understood he wanted you to stop, correct?
Aldrete-Davila: Well, yes.
A poor innocent mule?
In a sidebar with Cardone and prosecutor Debra Kanof, Stillinger objected to information about Aldrete-Davila’s second drug incident being sealed from the jury. She argues (Vol. VII, page 32) that the second drug incident bears directly on Aldrete-Davila’s credibility as a witness:
But he (Aldrete-Davila) told them the story about he’s a little mule, and he needed money for his mother’s doctor bills, and he needed money to renew his commercial driver’s license. He doesn’t know who hired him. He doesn’t even know where the stash house is.
In light of the fact that he did it again in October, and he personally took the load to the stash house, I think they (the government) have to know that that’s a lie.
Later, in another sidebar (Vol. VIII, page 9-10), Stillwell explains to Cardone that Aldrete-Davila’s credibility is key to the prosecution’s case. Since Aldrete-Davila escaped back to Mexico on Feb. 17, 2005, he was never frisked. The only evidence that Aldrete-Davila did not have a weapon that day is Aldrete-Davila’s own testimony Noted Stillwell:
But if he (Aldrete-Davila) has taken the stand, as he had, and said, I don’t know what marijuana looks like. I don’t know how to package marijuana. I don’t know what they were hiring me to carry, and it turns out that he’s done it five other times, then that shows he was lying about that. He was trying to make the jury think that he was an innocent person when he wasn’t.
And if he lies about that, he may well lie about whether or not he had a weapon or – or something else in his hand that could have been mistaken for a weapon.
Typically, Cardone denied the request, allowing Sutton to seal all information about the second drug offense from the jury and from the public.
Compean’s testimony directly refuted Aldrete-Davila’s story that he walked across the border to pick up a van that had already been packed with marijuana.
Compean (Vol. XIII, page 143) testified that the Border Patrol was expecting a drug crossing “because the Mexican military usually patrols out there every morning, and they weren’t out there. We didn’t see them all that day.”
In direct examination by Compean attorney Chris Antcliff, Compean explains:
Antcliff: And it’s unusual, to you, not to see the Mexican military?
Compean: Yes, it is. For about the last six months from that date, they had been patrolling the – all the different areas of the river, specifically that area where we were – we were parked. They usually set up their tents, and they camp out there for the entire day on the riverbank.
Next, Compean observed a white car “traveling low” on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. Compean suspected that the white car was carrying the drugs in preparation to load the drugs into the vehicle that would be used in the border crossing.
Under cross-examination by prosecutor Gonzales (Vol. XIII, page 194), Compean explained that the marijuana could be quickly transferred from the white car he observed on the Mexican side of the river to the van that would carry the marijuana across the border. Compean testified that, “when marijuana gets to the river, it takes anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute to load it up. I’ve seen 1,300 pounds be loaded up in less than one minute, sir.”
Compean was using his binoculars to observe the activity with the white car. We resume to the direct examination by Antcliff (Vol XIII, pages 144-145):
Antcliff: And what do you see next?
Compean: I don’t remember if I heard – there was sensor activation and it – the 76 port 1.
Antcliff: How do you know there was sensor activation?
Compean: Through sector communications. They were calling out a sensor taking hits.
Antcliff: OK. Did you hear it over the radio?
Compean: Yes, sir, I did.
Antcliff: I see. And what do you do when you hear that?
Compean: I began to look north of that area. That’s the area I had already been watching.
Antcliff: And do you see anything?
Compean: Not at first. Approximately 15 to 20 seconds later I saw what looked like a blue van leaving the area pretty fast.
The van Compean observed was the drug van, being driven by Aldrete-Davila. From the account of Compean and the other Border Patrol agents at the trial, there is no doubt that the chase started without interruption from the moment this sensor hit was observed. There is no Border Patrol agent testimony that would corroborate Aldrete-Davila’s story that he walked across the river and found the drug van packed and ready, with the key in the ignition waiting for him.
WND has previously reported that a March 20, 2005, Department of Homeland Security investigative report filed by Jose Arredondo and vehicle-towing receipts document that Aldrete-Davila was driving a 1989 Ford Econoline bearing Texas license plate number 9GSW89.
WND now reports that El Paso private investigator Freddie Bonilla investigated Aldrete-Davilla’s drug van. Bonilla is a retired homicide investigator with the El Paso Police Department. Subsequent to that he was chief of detectives for the El Paso Sheriff’s Department. For the past 22 years, Bonilla has been a private investigator.
Bonilla tracked down a Mexican who buys U.S. cars in Colorado. The Mexican owner subsequently sold the vehicle in Juarez, Mexico. A check on the Texas license plates would not have shown the vehicle as stolen.
Bonilla told WND he believes that simply by tracing the vehicle, he himself has done more to investigate Aldrete-Davilla’s drug-smuggling activities in Mexico than have been done by the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Department of Homeland Security combined.
Davila’s preposterous story
Davila’s story under oath strains credibility. Only incompetent drug runners would ever set up a deal the way Davila described it.
If drug dealers were able to get a drug van and pack it full of marijuana, why did they have to wait for Davila to get across the Rio Grande to drive the van the final distance to the stash house? Are we really supposed to believe that professional drug dealers loaded the van and just left it there, with the key in the ignition? How convenient that arrangement would have been for the Border Patrol. No high-speed pursuit would have been necessary, nor any scuffle in a ditch. Once they came upon the drug van, all the Border Patrol would have had to do was get in the car and drive it to the station.
Then we are supposed to believe that Davila had to rendezvous with a lead car that was to take him to the stash house. Easily Davila could have been given directions to the stash house. Or, if the lead car could find the drug van, certainly the lead car could have brought along the second driver. How did the drug van get loaded with marijuana and left there in the first place? Some driver must have been involved. So, why was that driver capable of driving the car to the pick-up point, but not to the stash house?
The story only makes sense if Davila was lying in an attempt to convince the jury that he was the victim, not a professional criminal. Evidently, Davila thought that he would appear more innocent if jurors thought he walked across the border to simply drive the drug van to the stash house. That is undoubtedly why Davila insisted he did not recognize the drugs as marijuana. Ludicrously, Davila took this point to the extreme, claiming he did not know how marijuana was packaged or what the drug smelled like. The thought is ridiculous that any professional drug dealers would have trusted a load with a possible street value of $1 million to a bumbling incompetent who lacked even the smarts to recognize marijuana.
Yet this is the exactly the story Sutton advanced at the trial. Moreover, the prosecutors fought desperately to make sure the jury never heard any evidenced that would have shown just how false this preposterous lie was. For months since the trial, Sutton has continued his deception about the second incident to make sure the public never was allowed to see Davila’s testimony in the cold light of day.
Reviewing this piece prior to publication, lawyer Jeri Ward commented: “It is unseemly, in my opinion, for a federal prosecutor, after fighting to exclude damaging information about the drug smuggler, to then portray him as simply a poor Mexican driving a truck filled with drugs to fulfill family obligations.”
“It is troubling that a prosecutor put a witness on the stand who would testify that he detected no odor in van filled with 743 pounds of marijuana,” Ward observed. “That simply defies reality.”
“Even if the judge’s ruling that the damaging information about the drug smuggler is irrelevant under the rules of evidence,” Ward concluded, “it is in violation of the spirit of ‘fair play and decency that should animate the federal prosecutor,’ as Attorney General Robert H. Jackson discussed in his famous 1940 speech entitled ‘The Federal Prosecutor.’”
Especially in cases where no criminal investigation was ongoing until the Mexican government demanded prosecution, the Ramos-Compean case forces us to wonder how far Sutton was willing to go to get convictions.
The Ramos-Compean case begs for a special prosecutor. The first investigation the special prosecutor should undertake was whether Sutton went so far as to conduct a malicious prosecution.