Cipriano Ortiz-Hernandez, the stash house operator in the “second load” brought across the border by Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila in the Ramos and Compean case, pleaded guilty in El Paso to drug charges.
WND has obtained copies of a signed guilty plea entered Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in El Paso by Ortiz-Hernandez admitting he conspired to possess with the intent to distribute 2,200 pounds or more of marijuana in violation of federal drug statutes.
The plea bargain allows prosecuting U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton to continue withholding government investigative reports implicating Aldrete-Davila with a “second load” drug incident involving Ortiz-Hernandez.
Had Ortiz-Hernandez sought a trial, his defense attorneys would have demanded release of Department of Homeland Security and Drug Enforcement Administration reports naming Aldrete-Davila as a perpetrator in at least one drug incident for which Ortiz-Hernandez has pleaded guilty.
WND reported a Nov. 21, 2005, memo by DHS Special Agent Christopher Sanchez indicates DEA investigators conducted a “knock and talk” with Ortiz-Hernandez in Clinton, Texas, Oct. 23, 2005, in which they learned of Aldrete-Davila’s second incident.
In his opening statement Tuesday at the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on Ramos and Compean, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., revealed his office was also in possession of a DEA investigative report documenting Aldrete-Davila’s involvement in a second load involving Ortiz-Hernandez.
Aldrete-Davila’s second load occurred just prior to the scheduled start of the Ramos-Compean trial, while Aldrete-Davila was under a grant of immunity by Sutton’s office to be the government’s lead witness against the two border agents.
Sutton’s office has refused to release to the public any investigative reports implicating Aldrete-Davila in the Ortiz-Hernandez drug incident, claiming that revealing investigative reports would compromise an “on-going” investigation.
Sutton repeatedly has claimed his office does not have sufficient information to prosecute Aldrete-Davila in the offenses for which Ortiz-Hernandez has now pleaded guilty.
Sutton also has refused to answer whether his office has extended the prosecutor’s immunity deal with Aldrete-Davila to include any subsequent drug offenses that may have involved Ortiz-Hernandez.
WND reported Prosecutor Debra Kanof argued at the Ramos-Compean trial that presiding U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone should seal any discussion of Aldrete-Davila’s involvement in the second load involving Ortiz-Hernandez from the jury.
Cardone ruled not only that defense attorneys were prohibited from revealing any information about Aldrete-Davila’s second load to the jury but that defense attorneys and the family of Ramos and Compean would be prosecuted for violating the judicial seal should they reveal to the press any hint of Aldrete-Davila’s involvement.
As WND reported, Rohrabacher revealed in a July 25 press conference the six unconditional, unescorted border pass cards the DHS issued Aldrete-Davila at the request of Sutton’s office.
The border pass cards were issued to Aldrete-Davila over a one-year period starting March 2005, with the final border pass card issued in January 2006, three months after the October 2005 second load incident involving Aldrete-Davila with Ortiz-Hernandez.
Aldrete-Davila’s last DHS border pass card expired March 31, 2006, three weeks after the Ramos-Compean trial had ended and five months after the second load incident.
At the Ramos-Compean trial, Sutton and Kanof allowed Davila to present sworn testimony on the stand that he was an inexperienced drug smuggler who only committed this one offense because his commercial driver’s license in Mexico had expired and he needed money, supposedly to buy medicine for his sick mother.
Aldrete-Davila’s testimony at trial was critical to the prosecution, because Aldrete-Davila was the only person who could testify he was unarmed during the initial Feb. 17, 2005, incident with Ramos and Compean at the border.
Ramos and Compean testified they believe Aldrete-Davila reached back at them with what they thought was a gun as the smuggler fled across the Rio Grande back to Mexico after he abandoned the drug van in the Feb. 17, 2005, incident.
Defense attorneys were prohibited by Judge Cardone’s ruling from using any information about Davila’s second drug load to impeach the credibility of Aldrete-Davila’s testimony at trial.
Medical reports obtained by WND document that Aldrete-Davila was wounded in the left side of his left buttocks. The bullet traversed his groin and lodged in his right thigh.
At the trial, the U.S. Army doctor who removed the bullet testified Aldrete-Davila’s wound was consistent with a “bladed movement,” with Davila reaching his left hand back toward the officers as he was running away.
The doctor’s testimony about the wound was consistent with Ramos’ and Compean’s belief Davila reached back with a gun while escaping.
According to the Nov. 21, 2005, DHS report by Sanchez, Ortiz-Hernandez positively identified Aldrete-Davila as the driver who dropped off 752.8 pounds of marijuana in a 1990 Chevy Astro van at his Quetzal Street home in Clinton the day before.
Ortiz-Hernandez told DHS investigators he was able to make the identification because Aldrete-Davila lifted his shirt to show him the catheter inserted into his body by a U.S. Army doctor at Beaumont Medical Center in El Paso in an operation reportedly aimed at repairing damage done when he was shot by Ramos Feb. 17, 2005.
Ortiz-Hernandez – reportedly in a wheelchair at the time of the DEA interview – reciprocated by showing Aldrete-Davila his own catheter.
Ortiz-Hernandez explained to DEA investigators that Aldrete-Davila decided to bring the drugs to the Quetzal Street house after his van developed engine trouble. Ortiz-Hernandez told investigators he had never met Aldrete-Davila previously, but Aldrete-Davila knew about him, having grown up with his brother Jose Roberto Ortiz, in San Ysidro, Mexico.
Because of the family connections, Ortiz-Hernandez gave Aldrete-Davila refuge at his safe house.
WND reported Ortiz-Hernandez was indicted by federal prosecutors in El Paso March 28.