Pardon Ramos and Compean

If President Bush would simply pardon the unjustly imprisoned former Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, we could all rest much easier knowing that in the United States, a foreign drug smuggler’s word does not prevail over the word of federal agents in the line of duty.

This week, the Kentucky-based group, Christians Reviving America’s Values, filed an ethics complaint with the Texas Bar Association to investigate U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, whom the group argues willfully misled a jury to convict the agents. Here is a refresher on the case for those who need it: Messrs. Ramos and Compean are serving 11- and 12-year federal prison sentences, respectively, for shooting in the buttocks an admitted drug smuggler who abandoned 743 pounds of marijuana. As the men tell it, they shot Mexican national Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila southeast of El Paso three years ago after the suspect refused the agents’ orders to stop. Wounded, Mr. Aldrete-Davila fled to Mexico, leaving behind the van containing the massive drug load.

Here’s the awful turn: Federal authorities subsequently located Mr. Aldrete-Davila in Mexico to offer immunity in exchange for his testimony against the border agents. He then filed a $5 million suit against the federal government for violating his civil rights.

On this man’s testimony, the border agents were convicted by a federal jury on charges that included: assault with a dangerous weapon, lying about the incident and violating the alleged smuggler’s Fourth Amendment right to be protected against illegal search and seizure.

News in April should put all controversy to rest: Mr. Aldrete-Davila pleaded guilty in federal court to multiple drug charges — crimes that occurred after the above episode, and thus are not covered by the immunity agreement. He was charged with two counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, one count of conspiracy to import a controlled substance and one count of conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

Mr. President, the clearest path to end this mess is to pardon the two former agents. Only a pardon would reassure the nation that the federal government does not actively seek drug smugglers to testify against its own agents. We are not safe.

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