Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee criticized the heavy sentence two former Border Patrol agents received for non-fatally shooting an illegal alien who smuggled drugs across the border.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.), who chaired the committee in place of Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.) Tuesday, called it “a case of prosecutorial overreaction.”
After the hearing, Feinstein and Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.) agreed they would write a letter to President Bush asking him to commute the sentences of Ramos and Compean.
On October 19, 2006, a federal district judge in El Paso, Texas sentenced former agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean to 11 and 12 years behind bars, respectively. A jury found them guilty of improperly firing shots at a Mexican national named Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, who was smuggling 743 pounds of marijuana into the United States.
The conviction has sparked outrage across the country. Several grassroots organizations are calling on congressmen to support the resolution sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R.-Calif.) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R.-Calif.)to pardon the agents. Hunter, who is seeking the GOP’s nomination for President, called the sentence “the most severe injustice [he has] ever seen for a Border Patrol Agent or any other uniformed officer.”
Former Chief Patrol Agent of the El Paso Border Patrol Luis Barker, who supervised Ramos and Compean at the time of the shooting, said if the agents had correctly reported the incident, their punishment would have been avoided. Regrettably, Barker said, Ramos and Compean “used deadly force when it should not have been applied; they shot a person in direct violation of firearms policy.”
“The agents destroyed evidence, filed an incomplete report on the incident in an effort to keep the shooting and circumstances surrounding it from leadership,” Barker said.
U.S. District Attorney of West Texas Johnny Sutton also testified at the hearing Tuesday. “Compean and Ramos crossed a line,” Sutton said. “They are not heroes. They shot at an unarmed suspect and then tried to cover it up.
The prosecution brought 12 charges against the agents. Four were dismissed. The strongest of these charges was 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c), which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years for discharging a firearm during commission of a violent or drug trafficking crime.
Sutton said that when the jury convicted the agents of violating the law, they were not aware that it would require the agents to serve a minimum of 10 years in a federal penitentiary.