A West Texas jury heard the agents' defense -- including that they thought Aldrete-Davila was armed -- and rejected it. The injustice is in the sentencing. The prosecutor offered Ramos and Compean plea bargains for 18-24 months in jail, which seems appropriate. When they rejected the pleas, they went to trial on 12 counts, including discharging a weapon in the course of a violent crime. Unbeknownst to the jury, that firearms charge carries a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence and is responsible for Ramos and Compean getting 11 and 12 years, respectively.
The statute in question was meant to be a way to deter criminals from carrying weapons, and, as Feinstein and Cornyn write, "should be used as an enhancing charge against drug dealers and individuals who commit violent crimes." Except in truly extraordinary cases, applying it to law-enforcement officers who carry their weapons as a matter of course is perverse.
The better part of prosecutorial discretion would have been to avoid the firearms charge. In similar cases -- for instance, an agent who shot at a van full of illegals and got a year and a day -- prosecutors had restrained themselves. But once they brought the charge and the jury found the agents guilty of it, the judge was locked into sending them to prison for more than a decade. Prison is particularly hellish for high-profile members of law enforcement, and now Ramos and Compean sit for their own protection in solitary confinement, where they will be for years.
This is wrong, and it is a case where only an act of executive clemency can counterbalance the excesses of the criminal-justice system. Agents Ramos and Compean don't have the fancy friends of Scooter Libby, but they deserve the president's mercy all the same.
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