For Release: November 17, 2008
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11
Black Leader to Bush: Commute Sentences of Jailed Border Agents
Washington, D.C. - After a federal judge last week refused to reduce the sentences of incarcerated U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, Mychal Massie - chairman of the Project 21 black leadership network - is calling on President George W. Bush to use his executive power to similarly commute the agents' sentences before leaving office in January.
Massie said: "At this juncture, whatever penance demanded from Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean pursuant to their actions has been met. Now is the time for President Bush to show mercy and allow these men to rejoin their families and restart their lives."
Ramos and Compean - incarcerated since January of 2007 - are serving jail sentences of 11 and 12 years, respectively. Most of their time thus far has been served in solitary confinement. Massie and Project 21 has repeatedly asked President Bush for leniency to show Ramos and Compean.
Ramos and Compean were prosecuted for an incident that occurred in February of 2005 on the U.S.-Mexico border near El Paso, Texas. 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 U.S.-Mexico border, and Ramos assumed 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 faces a jail term of between five and 40 years and $2 million in fines (although The Washington Times cited a source who claims Aldrete-Davila may only serve six to 10 years in exchange for his plea).
Regarding the dwindling avenues of relief for the agents, T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council union, said, "The best hope for these agents remains commutation from either the outgoing to the incoming president." Claudia Compean is similarly asking for the agents' sentences to be shortened.
"It is an egregious act of misapplied justice to continue to incarcerate these two men. They are not thugs or gangsters. They have spent nearly two years in jail. Their lives are ruined and their careers are ruined. While in jail, they have been assaulted and now must spend 23 hours a day in agonizing solitary confinement. Their families have been threatened. What more need be done to these men and their families?
"Herein lies the unintended consequences of overzealous politicians and prosecutors pursuant to mandatory sentencing guidelines. It is a sad day when crack dealers, drug smugglers, illegal alien criminals and pedophiles are afforded more lenience than these men.
"If President Bush cannot show mercy in light of these facts, may God have mercy on the soul of America."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Project 21's website at www.project21.org/P21Index.html.