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Man shot by agents stashed drugs after he got immunity
Question of the Day
A Mexican national who was shot by U.S. Border Patrol agents after abandoning 743 pounds of marijuana on the Texas border brought a second drug load into the United States while waiting to testify under a grant of immunity against the now-imprisoned agents, according to unreleased federal documents.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) documents, which remain under seal, show that Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila was the focus of a drug investigation into his reported stashing of 750 pounds of marijuana in a van at a house in Clint, Texas, in November 2005 — nine months after he was shot in the buttocks near Fabens, Texas, while running from Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean.
The agents have since been sentenced to 11 and 12 years, respectively, in prison. Clint is eight miles northwest of Fabens in what law-enforcement authorities describe as a popular drug smuggling corridor.
The DEA’s investigative reports, according to law-enforcement authorities and others, said a witness identified Aldrete-Davila as the van’s driver, and that the owner of the house, Cipriano Ortiz-Hernandez, picked Aldrete-Davila from a display of several photos.
The authorities also said the reports show that the homeowner’s brother, Jose Ortiz, told agents that Aldrete-Davila had brought the marijuana into the country from Juarez, Mexico, and identified him as “the person who was shot by Border Patrol agents.”
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, said the DEA reports show that prosecutors misled the public about their “star witness” in the transport of a second load of drugs, adding that U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton knowingly presented a false picture of the drug smuggler “to justify his ruthless prosecution.”
He said that under Mr. Sutton’s direction, prosecutors characterized the smuggler as an innocent victim, “which is clearly not the case,” and when Mr. Sutton’s office was told by the DEA of Aldrete-Davila’s involvement in a second offense, “chose to disregard the information.”
“Sutton’s continuous attempts to paint a benign picture of the drug smuggler is not only disingenuous, but amounts to misleading the jury and the public when questioned about the second offense,” he said. “Only an unscrupulous lawyer would believe this is an acceptable tactic.”
Shana Jones, spokeswoman for Mr. Sutton, told The Washington Times yesterday that the prosecutor’s office could not comment about matters under seal or on ongoing investigations.
“This office will pursue criminal charges where there is prosecutable criminal activity and competent evidence to prove it,” Ms. Jones said. “We have clearly stated that the immunity necessarily afforded to Aldrete-Davila in the investigation and trial of Ramos and Compean for the February 17 incident would not extend to any subsequent or future criminal activity that may be alleged.
“It is truly unfortunate that some members of Congress have inaccurately implied that such immunity would be extended beyond the scope of this trial,” she said.
Mr. Rohrabacher’s spokeswoman, Tara Setmayer, confirmed yesterday that her boss had a copy of the reports but said he had no intention of disclosing information from them that could be damaging to an ongoing investigation. She said he sought only to establish Aldrete-Davila’s suspected involvement in a second drug-smuggling incident.
Ramos, 37, and Compean, 28, were sentenced in October in federal court in El Paso, Texas, on charges of 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.
The conviction came after Aldrete-Davila was located in Mexico by Homeland Security investigators and given immunity by Mr. Sutton’s office in exchange for his testimony against the agents. The immunity agreement protected Aldrete-Davila from being charged in this country with drug smuggling.
Aldrete-Davila was shot after he ignored orders by the agents to stop his vehicle. Court records show he jumped from his van and ran south to the Rio Grande, where he was confronted on foot by Compean. Although wounded, Aldrete-Davila crossed the border and escaped in a waiting van.
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