For Release: November 25, 2008
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11
or [email protected]
Black Leader Condemns Bush for Not Pardoning or Commuting Sentences of Jailed Border Agents During Pre-Thanksgiving Round of Executive Clemency
Washington, D.C. - Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie is condemning President Bush’s inaction regarding incarcerated Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean and is reiterating his call for a pardon or commutation of the agents' sentences before the President leaves office in January.
Massie’s call comes as the White House has announced that President George W. Bush granted pre-Thanksgiving pardons to individuals involved in the distribution of drugs and bank embezzlement and commuted the sentences of two men given harsh mandatory sentences related to cocaine trafficking.
"I condemn President Bush in the harshest possible terms for not pardoning or, at the very least, commuting the sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean," said Massie. "His refusal is a shameful disgrace, especially since he previously saw fit to commute the sentence of his friend and colleague Scooter Libby and now two convicted cocaine traffickers. His steadfast refusal to provide relief for these wronged law enforcement officers leaves those who supported and defended him to wonder just how the President defines 'compassionate conservatism.'"
Ramos and Compean, incarcerated since January 2007, are serving jail sentences of 11 and 12 years, respectively. Most of their time has been served in solitary confinement. Massie has repeatedly asked President Bush to show leniency to Ramos and Compean.
Ramos and Compean were prosecuted for an incident that occurred in February 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).
Among the 14 people pardoned by President Bush on November 24 were Andrew Foster Harley for the wrongful use and distribution of marijuana and cocaine at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Obie Gene Helton for unauthorized acquisition of food stamps and Geneva Yvonne Hogg for bank embezzlement.
President Bush also commuted the sentences of John Edwards Forte and James Russell Harris, who were convicted in separate cocaine-related cases and received mandatory sentences of 14 and 30 years, respectively. Earlier this month, a federal judge refused to reduce the mandatory sentences for Ramos and Compean related to their use of guns in their case.
Massie added: "In the absence of President Bush's willingness to show compassion, it is my hope that President-elect Barack Obama - who has raised concerns about mandatory minimum sentencing, will make the immediate release of Ramos and Compean a matter of priority when he takes office."
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/news/2007/dec/28/justice-for-two.
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.