A Texas sheriff says a 2001 case against another U.S. Border Patrol agent set the pattern used by U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton in his recent cases against agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos, who now are serving prison terms for shooting at a drug smuggler fleeing back into Mexico, as well as Deputy Sheriff Gilmer Hernandez.
Rocksprings, Texas, Sheriff Don Letsinger told WND in a telephone interview the prosecution of David Sipe was “the smoking gun” showing how the U.S. Attorney’s Office handles evidence “to get prosecutions like U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton has gotten in the case of Ramos and Compean.”
Sipe was convicted in 2001 for a situation near McAllen, Texas, when he was accused of using a metal flashlight to strike illegal alien coyote Jose Guevara on the back of his head after Guevara struggled and resisted arrest.
The charge was using “excessive force and causing bodily injury” in the confrontation during the early morning hours of April 5, 2000.
The case would ruin Sipe’s career and marriage before it was over just a few weeks ago. A federal appeals court reversed his conviction and ordered a new trial because of prosecutorial misconduct, including withholding exculpatory information from the defense in violation of the Brady rule. During a re-trial in January, Sipe was acquitted after deliberations of less than an hour.
Sipe’s attorney, Jack Wolfe, told WND there were similarities between Sipe’s case and the allegations against the “Texas 3,” former border agents Ramos and Compean and Deputy Sheriff Hernandez, who has been convicted in a prosecution also launched by Sutton of shooting at a van loaded with illegal aliens he thought were trying to run him down.
“The federal prosecutors in the Sipe case refused to prosecute Guevara when he was apprehended a second time, caught for transporting illegal aliens by automobile,” Wolfe told WND, just as documents suggest prosecutors failed to prosecute a second offense by Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, the smuggler shot at by Ramos and Compean.
Wolve also said the Sipe prosecution was driven by the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington.
“DOJ under Clinton sent Fred Menner down to Texas from the Civil Rights Division to make sure this case was prosecuted,” he said.
Similar concerns have been expressed about the Ramos-Compean case.
“At first, the reports from the Border Patrol were that nobody was going to do anything about Sipe’s case. The DOJ in Washington was hot,” Wolfe said. “They built the fire under the U.S. Attorney’s Office to get the case going. DOJ Civil Rights got the bit in their mouth and they decided to prosecute Sipe.”
“The Mexican Consulate footprints were all through the Sipe case,” Wolfe added. “The Mexican Consulate wrote letters, they went out and assisted in taking photographs that they turned over to the prosecution. The Mexican Consulate offered to go to Mexico and bring back witnesses. A member of the Mexican Consulate sat through the whole trial.”
Such requests also were evident in the case against Hernandez, who essentially had been cleared before the demand arrived from Mexico that he be prosecuted.
There also have been allegations in the Ramos-Compean case of improper links between those involved in illegal activity and those connected to the Border Patrol. Likewise in the Sipe case, Wolfe said.
“The Texas Department of Public Service pulled over a vehicle transporting illegal immigrants, and they found Guevara,” Wolfe explained. “DPS called the Border Patrol to respond. The two agents that responded recognized Guevara from the Sipe case. So, they went up the chain of command and the boss of that shift in the McAllen sector made the decision not to send the case over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
Wolfe said the Border Patrol boss of that shift and Guevara both ended up being linked to a nefarious character known as the “Goat Man.” He was a known alien and dope smuggler who lives in Bonitas, Wolfe said.
“The victim worked for the Goat Man. Six months later, when Guevara gets caught again, the Border Patrol official who makes the decision not to prosecute is the nephew of the Goat Man,” he said.
“The prosecution knew Guevara got caught again,” Wolfe said, “and the Border Patrol recommendation was not to prosecute him. The prosecution gave Guevara a pass on the second violation because they didn’t want to weaken the case against Sipe.
“The prosecution gave Guevara and the other two illegal immigrant witnesses Social Security cards, border passes and witness fees,” Wolfe also told WND. “The prosecutors became virtually a travel agency for Guevara and the other government witnesses in the case, giving them free air travel to and from Mexico so they could visit family and friends, as well as free phone use to contact their families, whenever they wanted to do so.”
Sheriff believes evidence suppressed in Hernandez case
Gilmer Hernandez with his daughter
Letsinger also told WND he believes information was withheld from the grand jury and trial jury to get a conviction against Hernandez.
“I’m reasonably sure that the grand jury was not told there was no physical evidence recovered at the scene to support statements of the government’s witnesses and the government’s charges,” the sheriff said.
However, WND was unable to obtain a comment from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
On Feb. 22, WND reported Letsinger believed Hernandez did nothing wrong and that the Texas Rangers were not going to recommend prosecution as a result of their investigation.
“The statements by the prosecution that Gilmer Hernandez had chased the illegals across a pasture, cursing them and shooting at them were completely false,” Letsinger told WND. “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.
“At trial, the prosecutor insinuated to the jury information that he knew was not true,” Letsinger told WND. “He implied to the jury that evidence was tampered with, when there is no evidence of tampering. The physical evidence collected is consistent with Gil Hernandez’s version of events.”
“These immigrants, by their own statements to Texas Rangers, had entered into a criminal conspiracy with an organized crime smuggling organization to enter the United States in violation of the U.S. immigration laws,” Letisinger continued. “The difference is that when you enter into a conspiracy, even though you do not know all the conspirators, you are responsible for the [actions] of all the conspirators. So, when the driver attempted to run over Deputy Hernandez, all the parties in the car were now culpable for felony assault charges.
“The U.S. attorneys knew everything that was in the Texas Rangers report,” Letsinger said. “In that report were the statements of the illegal immigrants that they had entered into a criminal conspiracy. So, prior to trial, Sutton had decided to give all the occupants of the van and all the members of the conspiracy immunity from those felony assault charges.”
Letsinger told WND he strongly suspects Sutton would have had no case if the jury had known that the story about Hernandez running through a field, firing his weapon and trying to kill the runaway immigrants was unsubstantiated by evidence. Letsinger also told WND that had the story been true, the Texas Rangers would have recommended prosecution and he would have concurred.
WND has reported the federal prosecution of Hernandez began only after the Mexican Consulate in Eagle Pass, Texas, wrote a series of letters demanding that the Bush administration prosecute Hernandez for injuring a Mexican national, Marciela Rodriguez Garcia.
The federal government has recommended a seven-year term for Hernandez at his sentencing later this month.
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