Remember Ramos and Compean
On the evening of February 17th, 2005 Jose Alonso Compean lay on the ground bleeding after a struggle with a drug smuggler. His partner Ignacio Ramos attempted to give chase, as the man fled the agent said he saw something shiny in his hand and fired one shot. More here.
Now Border Patrol agents Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos have been sentenced to 12 and 11 years in prison for shooting a known drug dealer and not reporting the incident.
That is the basic story and it left me with a lot of questions, so I picked up the phone and called Rich Pierce, executive VP with the National Border Patrol Council.
"These are good guys," is one of the first things he had to say when I told him I was calling about the Ramos and Compean cases.
My first question was one I hadn't seen dealt with in the media, or, if it had been I hadn't seen it: What was the normal punishment for this type of incident? Mr. Pierce looked it up in the "Table Of Penalties." The specific violation would have been a "Failure to report the discharge of a firearm." Normal punishment? Written reprimand or up to a one week suspension, or as Mr. Pierce put it "about a thousand dollar fine."
So how did we get to this with respected and honored Border patrol agents facing more than ten years in jail?
Culture of corruption
"El Paso is like being in Mexico," Mr. Pierce said when I asked how this kind of thing could happen. He also felt the link between local El Paso politicos and Mexican drug cartels was a bit too close for comfort. "Drug cartels have gained control of El Paso."
He went on to explain that agents Ramos and Compean weren't the first federal agents to find themselves in trouble in El Paso. "Four or five federal agents have been indicted in El Paso and found themselves facing the same prosecutor and judge."
As the Houston Chronicle recently reported..." The culture of bribery is quietly seeping into new realms of government, from school districts to municipal court, experts say. Proximity to Mexico is at least partly to blame, said Anthony Knopp, a professor who teaches border history at the University of Texas at Brownsville. “What we’re dealing with is a Third World country on the other side of the border where there is a culture of corruption … corruption will show up here, naturally.” And show up, it has. "
But the corruption goes higher up the food chain. DHS made harsh accusations against Ramos and Compean that could not be backed up..."Department of Homeland Security officials told congressional leaders last month that two Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting a drug smuggler admitted to supervisors that they were "out to shoot Mexicans" the day of the shooting, but have yet to provide proof the agents made such statements."
Press Secretary Michael Green from Representative Kenny Marchant's office replied to my question of whether or not the DHS has released this information yet. "The first thing is a process of judicial review, no evidence can be released for at least sixty days after a trial and we're waiting to hear back from the El Paso court system on that. However, DHS says they have prepared a report that would be a "Silver Bullet" against the agents proving all the DHS allegation, but the report is now in review in the administration."
He said the review involved the report being bounced from DHS to the administration and then to DOJ and who knows from there? When I asked Mr. Pierce about this alleged DHS proof he was indignant. "Why didn't it come out in the trial?"
Questions also seem to swirl about United States District Attorney Johnny Sutton, a Bush nominee and friend of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. There is no proof of any wrongdoing, but President Bush and Alberto Gonzalez have shown themselves to be dead set against serious border security. Could these prosecutions be yet another way to frustrate proper control of our borders?
"We'll take a pardon if that's the best we can get," Mr. Pierce said, but "If all they get is a pardon their still guilty and they will not be eligible to get their jobs back, we need a reversal."
A petition to pardon agents Ramos and Compean is percolating through the blogosphere, but what Mr. Pierce and the agents are really hoping for is a Congressional investigation. Though the agents deeply appreciate the effort to get them pardoned, Mr. Pierce says, it's not enough.
An unnamed congressional spokesman assured me that there were concerns over the "proportionality" of the sentences, which echoes Mr. Pierce's concern that this seems more appropriately an "administrative matter than a legal one."
No one's fighting for these guys
"The only congressman really standing up for these guys is Dana Rohrabacher," Pierce responded when I asked where the fight goes from here for these two men. "Rep. Hostettler of Indiana had been spearheading the effort, but he didn't make it (in the election)." He also wanted me to add that "Rohrabacher is the only one who has contributed to the legal defense fund out of his own pocket."
Mr. Pierce hopes that somebody like Rep. Tom Tancredo might pick up the ball and run with it, but as of now no one has stepped up in a serious way for these agents.
"It seems no one is moving very quickly on this," spokesman Michael Green said about DHS and the administration providing evidence that would exonerate or damn these agents.
No it doesn't!
Ramos and Compean relief fund
Send the White House a "Christmas Pardon" email
Ramos and Compean Guard The Borders Blogburst
Ramos and Compean Sentenced
More Questions on Border Patrol Case
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