Believe everything the government says about Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alsonso Compean -- who were sentenced to 11 years and 12 years, respectively, for shooting at a fleeing drug smuggler in 2005, covering up the shooting and denying the smuggler his rights -- and you still should question whether they should spend a single night in prison, among those they once helped put away.
Prison will be no picnic for these men. Ramos and Compean have been behind bars at separate facilities for less than a month, and already a group of inmates have assaulted Ramos.
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security released Inspector General Richard Skinner's report on Ramos and Compean. Also, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported, Skinner had to apologize for staffers who had said that Ramos and Compean had admitted that they wanted to "shoot Mexicans" -- when it wasn't true.
There are two versions of what happened at the Texas border near El Paso on Feb. 17, 2005. The federal court still hasn't released a transcript of the two-and-half week March 2006 trial. I have been informed by news accounts, documents released by U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton and the feds, as well as the jury's guilty verdict.
Supporters of Ramos and Compean say that agents fired at drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila 15 times, because they thought he was armed as he ran toward the border. Was he armed? There's no way to know because, after being shot once in the buttocks, he fled on foot to the border. They say the agents didn't report the shooting because they wanted to avoid the paperwork. At most, the agents should have been fired for what happened.
Supporters also note that the feds granted the drug smuggler immunity from prosecution for smuggling 743 pounds of marijuana into the country so he could testify against the agents. Three agents who testified against Ramos and Compean also got immunity. Worse: Aldrete-Davila now is suing the government for $5 million.
Sutton can point to inconsistencies in Ramos' and Compean's stories. He is right to argue that law enforcement officials cannot be allowed to shoot at unarmed suspects or lie about what they do.
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