A Republican congressman yesterday asked President Bush to have "some Christian charity and pardon" two U.S. Border Patrol agents facing lengthy prison terms following their convictions for shooting a suspected drug smuggler in the buttocks.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California said Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean are scheduled to begin serving 11- and 12-year prison terms, respectively, in January and called on Mr. Bush to "do the right thing and not allow the lives and families of these fine men to be destroyed this holiday."
Mr. Rohrabacher made the request during a press conference, joined by Republican Reps. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, Ted Poe of Texas and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, to announce that more than 50 members of Congress have signed on to a pardon request letter to Mr. Bush.
"These Border Patrol agents are heroes," said Mr. Rohrabacher. "Because of their actions, over a million dollars in illegal drugs were stopped from being sold to our children. Bringing felony charges against them is a travesty of justice beyond description.
"The president needs to send the right message by showing they are on the side of law enforcement, not drug traffickers," he said.
Compean, 28, and Ramos, 37, were sentenced Oct. 19 by U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone in El Paso, Texas, to prison for causing serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and a civil rights violation. A federal jury convicted the two men in March after a two-week trial, and Judge Cardone ordered them to report to prison Jan. 17.
The government brought the charges after Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, a Mexican national, agreed to testify against the agents in exchange for immunity after an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General. The immunity deal protected Mr. Aldrete-Davila from being charged in this country as a drug smuggler. Ramos and Compean found 743 pounds of marijuana in the van he abandoned near the border.
Mr. Aldrete-Davila was shot after he illegally entered the United States near Fabens, Texas, and refused efforts by the agents to stop the van. Court records show he jumped from the vehicle and ran south to the Rio Grande, where he was confronted by Compean, who was knocked to the ground.
Although wounded, Mr. Aldrete-Davila managed to cross the border and escape in a waiting van.
"The U.S. Attorney wrongly focused on the minor mistakes of the officers instead of on the illegal drug trafficker," Mr. Rohrabacher said.
"When American citizens see an illegal alien narcotics trafficker being given immunity and free health care while the officers who risked their lives to stop him are going to prison, they must believe we in Washington either do not care about the uncontrolled flow of criminals or illegals or they just think we have lost our minds," he said.
The government's prosecution began after an investigator from the Office of Inspector General located Mr. Aldrete-Davila in Mexico. The investigator had been dispatched after Mr. Aldrete-Davila's mother complained to a Border Patrol agent in Arizona that her son had been shot. That agent notified Homeland Security.
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