For Release: July 30, 2008
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11
or [email protected]
Black Group Chairman Renews Call for Presidential Pardon of Jailed Border Patrolmen
Washington, D.C. - Mychal Massie, chairman of the Project 21 black leadership network, today is re-issuing his long-standing request to President George W. Bush for a pardon or commutation of the sentences of Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos. An appeals court ruling Monday failed to fully clear the incarcerated U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents of the major charges against them.
"This is a demoralizing day for those who serve on the front lines to secure our borders," said Massie. "I am renewing my call for President Bush to treat these incarcerated border agents with at least the same consideration he showed to his friend and confidant Scooter Libby, whose sentence he commuted. The time is now to permit Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean to return to their families."
On July 28, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the convictions of the officers on five minor counts of tampering with evidence. They did not, however, overturn convictions for assault, violation of civil rights and use of a firearm during a crime of violence.
Ramos and Compean, incarcerated since January 2007, are serving jail sentences of 11 and 12 years, respectively. Most of their sentences have been served in solitary confinement. Massie has repeatedly urged President George W. Bush to show leniency.
According to a passage in the appeals court panel's 45-page opinion, "The jury heard all of the evidence. The jury returned the verdict. The jury did not believe the Border Patrol agents. It convicted them. The government's evidence, if believed, is sufficient to uphold the convictions. And that is pretty close to the bottom line on guilt or innocence of these agents."
T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council union, contends the jury was not fully informed about Aldrete-Davila. He told the Houston Chronicle: "The part of the story they should have heard is this guy was a career criminal." Bonner calls the 5th Circuit's decision "devastating," saying, "It means if you use your weapon in self-defense, you too can be looking at ten years in federal prison."
Bonner said Ramos and Compean will appeal their case to the full 5th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.
Project 21's Massie added: "It is a travesty that these men must suffer this injustice through the courts because they did their jobs. Any remote impropriety on their part has been satisfied by the length of time these agents have already served. We are now witness to a perverse miscarriage of judicial resources."
Ramos and Compean were prosecuted for an incident that occurred in February 2005 on the U.S.-Mexico border near El Paso in which they chased Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila on foot after he abandoned a van containing 743 pounds of marijuana worth an estimated $1 million. During the chase, Ramos shot at Aldrete-Davila after Ramos thought he saw Aldrete-Davila draw a gun. Aldrete-Davila escaped across the border. Ramos believed Aldrete-Davila was unhurt. In fact, Aldrete-Davila had been shot in the buttock. U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton later charged Ramos and Compean for pursuing Aldrete-Davila without supervisor approval, moving spent shell casings and improperly reporting the fired shots.
Aldrete-Davila was granted immunity to testify against Ramos and Compean. He recently plead guilty to charges that he conspired to smuggle marijuana into the United States twice after he was granted immunity and he now faces a jail term of between five and 40 years and $2 million in fines (The Washington Times has cited a source who claims Aldrete-Davila will only serve six to 10 years in exchange for his guilty plea).
Project 21's Massie wrote about the Ramos and Compean case in a commentary published in The Washington Times on December 28, 2007. This commentary is available at http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20071228/EDITORIAL/99466045/1013.
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or [email protected], or visit Project 21's website at www.project21.org/P21Index.html.