- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Two U.S. Border Patrol agents are facing up to 20 years in prison at a sentencing tomorrow for shooting a Mexican national in the buttocks as he fled to the border after leaving 743 pounds of marijuana in an abandoned van in Texas.

The two agents, Ignacio Ramos, 37, and Jose Alonso Compean, 28, had sought a delay in the sentencing, but their motion was denied and the Justice Department has yet to release findings of a review of the case requested by Congress.

The agents were convicted by a federal jury in March 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.

Federal prosecutors brought the charges against the agents after Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila was given immunity from any drug smuggling charges and agreed to testify for the government following an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.

Aldrete-Davila was shot after he illegally entered the United States and refused efforts by the agents to stop his vehicle. Court records show he jumped from the van and ran south to the river, where he was confronted by Compean, who was knocked to the ground. Aldrete-Davila managed to cross the border and escape in an awaiting van.

Several members of Congress, including Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, have suggested congressional hearings in the matter and have asked the Justice Department to review the case.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, also asked Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, for a full hearing, saying “the facts do not add up or justify the length of the sentences for these agents, let alone their conviction on multiple counts.”

On July 25, the U.S. Probation Office in El Paso recommended to U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone, who oversaw the trial, that each agent serve 20 years in federal prison. The sentencing is scheduled for tomorrow in U.S. District Court in El Paso.

In an unusually detailed three-page statement issued last month, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton in El Paso, whose office prosecuted the case, said the two agents were charged because they “fired their weapons at a man who had attempted to surrender by holding his open hands in the air.”

He said Compean tried to hit Aldrete-Davila with the butt of his shotgun, “causing the man to run in fear of what the agents would do to him next.” Mr. Sutton said that while both agents reported that Aldrete-Davila was not armed, they fired at least 15 rounds at him, hitting him once.

Mr. Sutton said that if the agents thought the shooting was justified, “there was no reason for them to conceal it from supervisors and remove evidence from the scene.”

The prosecution began after an investigator from the inspector general’s office located Aldrete-Davila following a complaint about the shooting by his mother, who lives in Mexico. Court records show the mother called a Border Patrol agent in Arizona who notified homeland security officials.

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