July 18, 2007
Hearing discusses 2 border agents
By Jerry Kammer
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON – Conservative House Republicans
marched to the other side of Capitol Hill yesterday to
campaign for the release of two Border Patrol agents
imprisoned for shooting a drug trafficker who drove a van
full of marijuana across the border into Texas.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, was among those who
argued for the release of Border Patrol agents Ignacio
Ramos and José Compean while appearing as a witness
before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing chaired by
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
“I have never seen a case so compelling for a pardon or
commutation,” Hunter told the panel.
He called the sentences – 11 years for Ramos and 12 for
Compean – “the most severe justice” he had ever seen in
the treatment of uniformed officers in federal service.
Hunter has collected 100 House co-sponsors for a bill
calling for pardons for the men, he said.
U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton – dubbed “Johnny Satan” by
those who are outraged that his office offered immunity to
the drug smuggler in return for testimony against the two
agents – held his ground.
“(The agents) are not heroes. They deliberately shot an
unarmed man in the back . . . and lied about it,” Sutton
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, blaming the
Bush administration, invoked the president's recent
commutation of former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter”
“Scooter Libby can be set free, but two Border Patrol
agents – their lives don't count a bit with this
administration,” Rohrabacher said.
While the case has stirred a whirlwind of controversy,
some facts are not in dispute.
In February 2005, Ramos and Compean pursued a Mexican
man, Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, driving a van containing 743
pounds of marijuana back toward the border, where the van
crashed and Aldrete tried to flee. The agents shot at him,
wounding him in the buttocks.
Beyond that there is no consensus, although Sutton's
team of prosecutors convinced a West Texas jury that the
agents made up the story that they shot at Aldrete because
they believed he was armed.
“All the evidence pointed the other way,” Sutton
testified at yesterday's hearing.
He said the agents' supporters were attempting to
distort the story.
The case went to trial after the agents turned down a
plea agreement that would have sent them to prison for 18
to 24 months. Prosecutors then pursued a firearms charge
under a federal statute that requires a 10-year minimum
At yesterday's hearing, some senators said they
understood the need to prosecute the two agents, but none
supported the use of the firearms charge, which they said
Congress had mandated in an attempt to discourage drug
traffickers from carrying weapons.
“I believe there's a lack of balance,” said Sen. Tom
Feinstein agreed, calling it a case of “overreaction in
She joined other panel members in saying that Congress
should take another look at the 10-year minimum.
Cox News Service
contributed to this report.