A bipartisan effort in Washington to encourage the president to free imprisoned U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean in time to spend Christmas with their families is gaining ground.
A new bipartisan coalition yesterday delivered a letter to the White House, and another resolution, also a bipartisan plan, is advancing through the U.S. House of Representatives. Both ask President Bush to commute the agents’ prison sentences.
However, there’s been no indication the White House would respond positively to the requests. In fact, this week a conference committee finalizing the Omnibus Appropriations Bill stripped out an amendment co-sponsored by Reps. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., Ted Poe, R-Texas, and Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., that would have removed funding for the Bureau of Prisons to keep Ramos and Compean jailed.
While there is no official record made of congressional conference committees, sources in Congress told WND the amendment was removed with the blessing of the White House. The amendment had passed without objection on July 25.
Still, four congressmen – Democrat William Delahunt of Massachusetts and Silvestre Reyes of Texas, and Republicans Dana Rohrabacher of California and Ted Poe of Texas – signed a letter to President Bush asking him to commute the sentences of Ramos and Compean.
The new letter represents a direct bipartisan appeal to Bush to act now on behalf of Ramos and Compean, in the hope the two men could be home with their families for Christmas.
Delahunt, Rohrabacher and Poe earlier sponsored House Concurrent Resolution 267 asking the House to petition President Bush to grant clemency in the case. It now has 37 Democrats and several dozen Republicans as sponsors.
The theme of the bipartisan letter and resolution is that the sentences of 11 and 12 years, respectively, imposed on Ramos and Compean are disproportionate to the lesser sentences typically served by more grievous criminals, including those convicted for manslaughter, assault and firearms where the average sentence is less than four years.
Especially troubling in the case of Ramos and Compean is the mandatory minimum 10-year sentence imposed by 18 U.S.C. 924(c) under which Ramos and Compean were convicted.
As WND has reported, 18 U.S.C. 924(c) is a law Congress passed to impose additional penalties on federal felons who carried firearms in the commission of their felony.
Appellate attorneys for Ramos and Compean argued on Dec. 3 before the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that 18 U.S.C. 924(c) was never intended to be applied to law enforcement officers who fired their weapons in the line of duty, even if the officers used misjudgment in the decision to discharge their weapons.
The bipartisan letter delivered yesterday to Bush makes the same point.
“Mr. President, as of this writing, Ignacio Ramos will have served his punishment for all the crimes for which he was found guilty – except the charge imposing the mandatory minimum,” members of Congress said. “Jose Compean will be halfway through his prison term – except for the charge carrying the mandatory minimum.”
“These men have already lost their jobs and had their lives ruined, and their families have suffered terribly,” the letter said. “No useful purpose is served by their incarceration.”
“Mr. President, we respectfully request that you correct this injustice,” the letter ended. “We ask that you immediately commute the sentences of Ramos and Compean to time served so that they can spend Christmas at home with their families.”
“Time is running short for the president to do the right thing,” Rohrabacher said in a statement issued by his office. “When this case is kicked out by the Fifth Circuit, the president will rightfully be judged as having been stubborn, heartless and wrong, unless he acts now.”
“If the status quo remains, Scooter Libby will be home with his family for Christmas while Ramos and Compean suffer alone in solitary confinement,” Rohrabacher added, referring to the commutation of sentence President Bush granted Libby, an aide to Vice President Cheney who was convicted of lying to the special prosecutor in the investigation of the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.
Ramos and Compean were convicted for firing after Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, an admitted drug smuggler, who brought 750 pounds of marijuana across the Mexican border, into Fabens, Texas, on Feb. 17, 2005.
Aldrete-Davila is now arrested and indicted for a “second load,” which he allegedly brought into the U.S. in 2006 just prior to the trial for Ramos and Compean.
At that time, Aldrete-Davila was under a grant of immunity to testify at the Ramos-Compean trial and in possession of a border pass card signed by DHS special agent Christopher Sanchez.
Prosecutor Debra Kanof, in the office of U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton in El Paso, successfully convinced Judge Kathleen Cardone to seal all information about Aldrete-Davila’s second load from the jury, thus preventing the defense in the Ramos and Compean trial from using this information to impeach the credibility of Aldrete-Davila’s testimony under oath on the stand.
The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is expected to announce the three-judge decision in the Ramos and Compean case before the end of February.
If the appellate decision is favorable to Ramos and Compean, the three judges may decide to reverse the conviction and demand a new trial.
If the appellate decision sustains the conviction, Ramos and Compean’s only other recourse would be an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.