- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The case of Border Patrol Agent David Sipe is an alarming example of misplaced priorities. On duty in April 2000 near Panitas, Texas, Mr. Sipe, his partner and two other agents responded to a disrupted motion sensor to find between 12 and 15 illegal aliens crossing the border. Most of the illegals followed the agents’ instructions and surrendered, but several attempted to flee, running into a patch of tall dense reeds. What happened after Mr. Sipe pursued three men into the reeds is, as court documents note, disputed.

In the course of making the arrest, Mr. Sipe struck one of the border crossers, a Mexican national named Jose Guevara, in the head with his flashlight. He said it was necessary, but the U.S. Attorney’s office said it wasn’t. In 2001, Mr. Sipe, who had no previous complaints against him, was convicted for using excessive force, and dismissed from the Border Patrol. The story doesn’t end there, and when the conduct of the prosecuting attorney’s office came to light Mr. Sipe was tried again and acquitted.

It turns out that three illegal aliens who testified against Mr. Sipe — that is, Mr. Guevara along with two others who had fled into the reeds — received a very nice gift package. The Washington Times reported Monday that the three illegals got Social Security cards, witness fees, travel expenses, living expenses and the use of government telephones to call relatives in Mexico, and were allowed to travel to and from Mexico and to North Carolina. The government offered everything to the three who had broken the law, all to obtain testimony against an agent who had enforced the law.

The U.S. Attorney’s office, moreover, covered up the generous benefits it had handed out. It failed to disclose the fact that all three illegal aliens had been living together in the months preceding the trial. Nor did prosecutors reveal that when Border Patrol agents stopped Mr. Guevara, again traveling with illegal aliens, they let him go when he flashed the “get out of jail card” he got from the prosecutors. “His arrest with illegal aliens was evidence that he was a transporter,” wrote the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in ordering a new trial, “as well as evidence of the extent of the government’s support accorded him in order to obtain his testimony.”

Mr. Sipe’s felony conviction has been overturned, and despite the way he was treated he is working to rejoin the Border Patrol. But the repercussions of such zealous and aggressive prosecution go well beyond his case. The message to Border Patrol agents, who are assigned to the difficult and dangerous job of protecting our borders, is to worry less about the execution of their duties and more about how things could be made to look in court. Agents, like the rest of us, are not above the law, but government prosecutors must not lose sight of who the criminals are.

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