Friday, January 19, 2007

A California congressman has introduced legislation calling for a congressional pardon for two U.S. Border Patrol agents sent to prison this week for shooting a suspected drug smuggler in the buttocks as he fled back into Mexico.

Rep. Duncan Hunter also asked that pending any legislative action of the Congressional Pardon for Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean Act, that the two agents — Ignacio Ramos, 37, and Jose Alonso Compean, 28 — be segregated from the general prison population to ensure their safety.

“The Border Patrol is America’s first line of defense against the constant and unrelenting efforts of drug and human smugglers to illegally enter the United States,” said the nine-term Republican. “Agents Compean and Ramos fulfilled their responsibilities as Border Patrol agents and rightfully pursued a suspected and fleeing drug smuggler.

“It is irresponsible to punish them with jail time,” he said.

The two agents surrendered on Wednesday for shooting drug-smuggling suspect Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila after he refused their orders to halt, abandoned his van along the Rio Grande with 743 pounds of marijuana inside, assaulted Compean, who tried to block his dash into Mexico, and then fled to a waiting van in Mexico.

During the trial, Ramos’ attorney, Mary Stillinger, had argued that her client shot in defense of Compean, saying Ramos saw his partner on the ground and that when Aldrete-Davila turned toward the agents Compean believed he was holding a weapon.

She and Maria Ramirez, one of Compean’s attorneys, also told the jury that more than half a dozen other Border Patrol agents, including two supervisors, were at the scene of the shooting and did not report anything.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane Kanof said during trial that Ramos and Compean violated Aldrete-Davila’s civil rights by shooting and that the agents had violated Border Patrol policies by chasing the fleeing suspect.

Aldrete-Davila has said he plans to file a $5 million civil rights lawsuit against the government.

The agents turned themselves over to U.S. marshals at the federal courthouse in El Paso, Texas, to begin 11- and 12-year sentences, respectively. Both were taken to the county jail where they will wait for transportation to their assigned federal prisons. Ramos is expected to serve his time in Mississippi and Compean in Ohio.

“We cannot turn our back on Agents Compean and Ramos or the rest of the men and women proudly serving in the U.S. Border Patrol,” Mr. Hunter said. “These two agents deserve our full support and the congressional pardon provided by this legislation.”

Ramos, a 10-year Border Patrol veteran and former Agent of the Year nominee, and Compean, a five-year member of the force, were sentenced in October in federal court in El Paso 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 found in Mexico by Department of Homeland Security investigators and given immunity by U.S. prosecutors against any drug charges in exchange for his testimony against the agents.

The immunity agreement protected Aldrete-Davila from being charged in the United States with drug smuggling.

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