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“The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One's right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”     Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson,    West Virginia Board of Education vs. Barnette, 1943

January 6, 2009

Ramos and Compean Should NOT be Pardoned

by Stephen Littau

As the Bush era comes to a close, the list of last minute pardon requests are growing. Perhaps the loudest demand for pardon comes (mostly) from Conservatives who are angry that President Bush has not acted to pardon two Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean. Those who demand the pardon claim that the agents were railroaded by an “overzealous” U.S. Attorney for “just doing their jobs” when the agents fired 15 shots, one of which hit a fleeing “drug smuggling illegal immigrant” Aldrete-Davila in the buttocks. If you Google “Ramos and Compean” you will find an endless number of articles which make some variation of this argument.

If this were a case of two Border Patrol Agents “just doing their jobs” acting in self defense, then I too would be demanding a pardon for these men. Inconvenient facts which are left out of almost all of these articles point to exactly why Ramos and Compean should NOT be pardoned. A January 29, 2007 article written by Andrew McCarthy for The National Review (not what I would consider a left-leaning or open borders type publication) offers a compelling counterpoint challenging the heroic and mythical image being bandied about of the two Border Patrol Agents:

The preponderance of the evidence established that Aldrete-Davila was unarmed. Besides Compean and Ramos, there were several other agents on the scene. None of them believed Aldrete-Davila posed a threat to their safety; none, other than the two defendants drew their weapons; and Compean and Ramos neither took cover nor alerted their fellow agents to do so.

More to the point, Compean admitted to investigators early on that the smuggler had raised his hands, palms open, in an attempt to surrender. This jibed not only with Aldrete-Davila’s account but with that of another Border Patrol agent. Compean opted not to take surrender, not to place the smuggler under arrest so he could be prosecuted.

On that score, for those over-heatedly analogizing the border to a battlefield, it is worth noting that even under the law of war, quarter must be given when it is sought. Compean, to the contrary, tried to strike Aldrete-Davila with the butt of his shotgun. But it turns out the agent was as hapless as he was malevolent. In the assault, he succeeded only in losing his own balance. The smuggler, naturally, took off again, whereupon Compean unleashed an incompetent fuselage — missing Aldrete-Davila with all fourteen shots.

It was only after the surrender attempt that Ramos opened fire as the unarmed smuggler neared the border. Defending his decision to bring the case, U.S. attorney Sutton later explained: “Border Patrol training allows for the use of deadly force when an agent reasonably fears imminent bodily injury or death. An agent is not permitted to shoot an unarmed suspect who is running away.” The fact that Aldrete-Davila was a drug-dealer — something the agents may have suspected but had not yet confirmed at the time they were shooting at him — did not justify the responsive use of potentially deadly force under standard law-enforcement rules of engagement.

Even Ramos and Compean’s supporters acknowledge that the agents shot at a fleeing suspect rather than a suspect trying to cause injury or death. Do they really want to make every law enforcement officer in the country judge, jury, and executioner and grant the right to use lethal force against a fleeing supect*? After all, forcing law enforcement to obey the law makes their jobs “more difficult”!

McCarthy continues to perhaps the most damning part of Ramos and Compean’s actions – the cover-up:

Once Aldrete-Davila was down from Ramos’s shot to the backside, they decided, for a second time, not to grab him so he could face justice for his crimes. As they well knew, an arrest at that point — after 15 shots at a fleeing, unarmed man who had tried to surrender — would have shone a spotlight on their performance. So instead, they exacerbated the already shameful display.

Instead of arresting the wounded smuggler, they put their guns away and left him behind. But not before trying to conceal the improper discharge of their firearms. Compean picked up and hid his shell-casings rather than leaving the scene intact for investigators. Both agents filed false reports, failing to record the firing of their weapons though they were well aware of regulations requiring that they do so. Because the “heroes” put covering their tracks ahead of doing their duty, Aldrete-Davila was eventually able to limp off to a waiting car and escape into Mexico.

Whaaaat? But I thought this “drug smuggling illegal immigrant” was a threat to national security? If the agents’ actions were justified, why would they not arrest the suspect and why would they feel the need to cover-up their actions? Were they afraid that the “overzealous” Sutton had an axe to grind against the Border Patrol?

Toward the beginning of his article, McCarthy points out that Sutton had an impressive record of prosecuting coyotes and drug smugglers and supporting the efforts of the Border Patrol. There have even been other cases on Sutton’s watch where agents used lethal force which resulted in fatalities. Because these agents responded appropriately in these cases – using deadly force when there were legitimate threats to the lives of others on the part of the suspects, Sutton’s office did not pursue charges.

On January 17, 2007, Sutton published a press release on official U.S. Department of Justice Letterhead in an attempt to separate “Myth vs. Reality” regarding this case. Within this document contains perhaps the best argument for why the president should not pardon these men:

These agents were found guilty by a unanimous jury in a United States District Court after a trial that lasted more than two and a half weeks.

The two agents were represented by experienced and aggressive trial attorneys, both of whom vigorously challenged the Government’s evidence through cross examination.

Both agents told their stories from the witness stand and had full opportunities to explain their version of events and to offer their own evidence. The jury heard everything including the defendants’ claims of self defense. The problem for Agents Compean and Ramos is that the jury did not believe their stories because they were not true.

Being government agents, Ramos and Compean probably received a better legal defense than the average criminal defendant. They had their day in court and they lost. Their legal team appealed the convictions and they lost again. This is hardly the miscarriage of justice that the pro pardon people would have us believe; this is an example of the system actually working the way it’s supposed to!

Ramos and Compean’s supporters do have at least a couple of somewhat legitimate gripes though. One being the length of the sentences (11 and 12 years) and the other being use of testimony on the part of a criminal who has something to gain (in this case, Aldrete-Davila himself). But these complaints should not be directed at Sutton or the trial judge.

The blame for the length of the sentence belongs properly to the mandatory minimum sentencing law passed by congress which requires a ten year sentence for unlawful discharge of a firearm while committing a crime (this ten year sentence is in addition to whatever other crimes the defendant is convicted of). While I believe that the sentences are appropriate in this case, I am opposed to mandatory minimum sentencing laws on principle. Judges should have the discretion to decide the appropriate punishment not a one-size-fits-all penalty regardless of any unique circumstances in a unique event.

And allowing Aldrete-Dalvia to testify against Ramos and Compean with full immunity? This is standard operating procedure. Prosecutors use informants who have a motive to testify against defendants every day in this country. Why should we be surprised that Sutton would use Aldrete-Dalvia as his star witness? If this approach is appropriate for the average defendant then it is certainly appropriate when those sworn to serve and protect abuse the public’s trust.

But don’t expect Conservatives to start demanding a repeal of mandatory minimum sentencing laws nor expect them to consider criminal justice reform. To them this case is not about two rogue law enforcement agents but about immigration and drug policy. The facts do not matter because the guys with the badges are always the good guys and their judgment is better than due process of law.

Certainly there are many miscarriages of justice which could be rectified with a presidential pardon (*cough* *cough* Cory Maye *cough* *cough*) but the case of Ramos and Compean is not such a case…no matter where one stands on immigration and drug policy. Hopefully neither President Bush nor President-Elect Barack Obama will give in to the mindless demands of this misguided and vocal mob.

***CORRECTION***

Quincy pointed out that the president cannot pardon individuals who have been convicted of crimes in violation of state or local laws but only federal laws. Cory Maye was found guilty under Mississippi law, not federal law. My understanding has always been that the president could pardon anyone for committing any crime in the U.S.

A careful reading of Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, however; seems to say otherwise:

[The president] shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

I also decided to do some additional research on the topic of presidential pardons to determine if the phrase “against the United States” applied to state and local law. HowStuffWorks? has a very informative article which explains how presidential pardons work. In chapter 5 “What a Pardon Does Not Do” I found my answer:

One limitation is that a pardon cannot be issued for a crime that has not yet been committed. Pardons also don’t affect civil cases, or state or local cases. Pardons are meant to dismiss sentences stemming from affronts to the United States through the breaking of laws.

Unfortunately, this means that Quincy is right: the president couldn’t pardon Cory Maye even if he wanted to.

* Think about it: if you surrendered to law enforcement and one of the officers try to hit you with the butt of a shotgun, do you think you might try to run away?

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49 Comments

  1. Stephen –

    I’d like to see the miscarriage of justice in the Cory Maye case corrected as much as anyone, but it is not within the power of the POTUS to grant pardons to people convicted by the states.

    Comment by Quincy — January 6, 2009 @ 10:25 pm
  2. [...] Why those border agents jailed for shooting an unarmed drug smuggler should not be pardoned. [...]

    Pingback by The Agitator » Blog Archive » Morning Links — January 7, 2009 @ 7:55 am
  3. Excellent comments. I completely agree. These are criminals – keep them in jail.

    Comment by Scott — January 7, 2009 @ 10:13 am
  4. Bout time a couple of rogue Feds did some time. They have a lot of company out there riding roughshod over people who should be in jail but are still walking around. Enough is enough!

    Comment by sirius — January 7, 2009 @ 12:35 pm
  5. FACT- this investigation started with phone calls that ended up at a BP agent in wilcox, AZ who was a childhood friend of the drug smuggler.
    FACT– The drug smuggler told this agent the third time they talked that he WAS smuggling drugs the day he was shot.
    FACT- this agent was also tipped off to drug smuggling operations in El Paso and would call Border patrol there and inform them. Makes sense that this would happen with two drug cartels fighting for control in the El Paso area. Of course he snitched about the opposing cartel for which his childhood friend worked for.
    FACT– his family members consider him the black sheep of the family who has been smuggling drugs since he was 14 and NEVER moved a load without a weapon.
    FACT- the only person to say there was no weapon was the drug smuggler because those cartels know if their mule (drug runner) is caught with one, its an automatic prison term of five years. No one knows for sure there was no weapon because the dope runner was never searched. Sutton wants people to think he was unarmed to justify his case and prosecution.
    FACT– after the February shooting, the drug smuggler continues to smuggle drugs while using Border crossing permits from the US attorney office and the DHS Inspector.
    FACT– the drug runner has since been indicted on FOUR SMUGGLING operations, in June, September, and twice in October 2005 before the trial began. Which by the way, was to have started on October 25, but was postponed because the US Attorney Office “said” he needed to go to san antonio for emergency surgery when in fact the best hospital to handle the injury for which he had was right there in El Paso.
    FACT– During the two October loads, The DEA, El Paso Sheriff, and Border Patrol all caught the doper at the stash house operated by Cipriano Ortiz Hernandez, who is now in prison also.
    FACT– The jury DID NOT know of the other smuggling operations because the US Attorney Office said it was irrelevant to the case. They knew if this would have been admitted it would have ruined their cas
    FACT- The jury had three members come forward and complain of the conduct of the jury foreman who told them that the judge told him, there will be no hung jury. Another juror was ready to get out of there so he could get out of town because spring break started that Friday.
    FACT- During a separate interview, a Radio talk show host went to El Paso, talked to two jurors, Showed them the transcript and the Sealed DEA papers on the October Loads and both said if they would have known this they could not and would not have voted guilty. they said they dont think the other members would either.
    FACT- the 924C gun charge was never meant for law enforcement in the line of duty. It was meant for criminals who used a gun.
    FACT- DHS told a house subcommittee that the two agents said they were “out to shoot a mexican” that day and then had to admit “oh we lied” about that statement.
    Fact- border patrol disipline guilelines for everything they were charged range from an oral reprimand to a five day suspension without pay.
    Sutton and his office had to make everyhting a crime in order to prosecute them and lie to get a conviction.

    Do you homework and make yourself more familiar with the case instead of reading one post and say, “yeah they are criminals”

    Comment by james — January 7, 2009 @ 12:47 pm
  6. The reason that Congress passed minimum sentencing laws is simple:
    Too many social worker/judges were letting too many bad guys off.
    It’s a shame minimum sentencing can’t be applied at the state level (where most violent crimes occur) everywhere.

    Comment by graywolf — January 7, 2009 @ 12:55 pm
  7. James,
    Where are your links to back all of this up? And I mean links, not one. Show your work. If you are going to go spouting off to someone about not doing their homework and looking at one article, you need to back up your statements with linkS.

    Comment by Aimee — January 7, 2009 @ 1:03 pm
  8. Fact-knowing crazy Johnny Sutton is breathing down your neck I would conceal my justified acts also.

    Fact-Concealment does not necessarily prove guilt or innocence.

    Fact-So we now take the side of Coyotes, Mules, and illegal pimps over border guards.

    Fact-The drug smuggling pimp received less time than our agent heros.

    Fact-WHO CARES IF ONLY RAMOS AND COMPEON DREW WEAPONS, WHAT DOES THAT PROVE. TO ME IT PROVES THE OTHER BORDER GUARDS ARE NAIVE WHILE RAMOS AND COMPEON PUT THEIR A$$e$ ON LINE TO SAVE THE OTHER BORDER GUARD LIVES. HA HA

    Comment by Michael Gaydos — January 7, 2009 @ 1:08 pm
  9. James:

    FACT: Ramos and Compean were convicted in a court of law. The jury heard both sides and found the men guilty. It’s not me saying “yeah they are criminals” they are in fact convicted criminals.

    FACT: I cited my sources where did you get your “facts”?

    FACT: If Sutton lied about the facts regarding the case, Ramos and Compean’s attorneys can charge him with libel.

    Even if everything you say is true, the fact remains that Ramos and Compean shot a man in the back; this shooting was unjustified.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — January 7, 2009 @ 1:18 pm
  10. FACT- This entire situation is caused by our unjust laws.
    FACT- Most Mexican immigrants come here to answer one of three invitations from the U.S.
    1. “Come mow my lawn and I’ll give you 5 dollars”
    2. “Bring me some illegal drugs”
    3. “Come get free health care!”
    FACT- All of the above invitations are made more valuable by our government.
    FACT- A truly free society welcomes all.

    Comment by Dale — January 7, 2009 @ 2:10 pm
  11. Michael Gaydos,

    It is a clear legal doctrine that the innocent does not run, only the guilty. “Concealing the evidence” points to guilt a hell of a lot more than it does innocence.

    Comment by Chris Mallory — January 7, 2009 @ 2:51 pm
  12. “So we now take the side of Coyotes, Mules, and illegal pimps over border guards.”

    Well, hopefully. It’s always best to take the side of free enterprise and entrepreneurialism versus government thuggery.

    But, even assuming the reverse, the fact is that Ramos and Compean are lawless goons who went far beyond the sick, vile portfolios of “their jobs.” Instead of arresting the guy, they beat him and then shot him — and then let them escape so they could scratch at the litter they’d just shit in and try to deceive their supervisors as to what had actually happened.

    Fuck’em — they belong UNDER the jail. They got off light.

    Comment by KN@PPSTER — January 7, 2009 @ 3:03 pm
  13. Thank you, Tom, aka KN@PPSTER, for putting it into perspective. Neither crossing an imaginary line drawn on a map nor engaging in free trade and free market activities should get someone shot – or even stopped or chased. I’m glad to hear that Aldrete-Dalvia has continued to conduct his business even after his unfortunate encounters with the government bureaucrats who attempted to shut his business down.

    Comment by Rocky Eades — January 7, 2009 @ 5:17 pm
  14. @ Michael Gaydos:

    For me its not about “taking sides,” its about the facts as I understand them. There are cases where law enforcement is right and the suspect is wrong and other cases where the opposite is true. In this case, the Border Patrol agents were in the wrong. The fact that the suspect was smuggling drugs (something the agents did not know at the time they fired the shots) does not give law enforcement the right to use lethal force (especially when the suspect is running away).

    Comment by Stephen Littau — January 7, 2009 @ 10:12 pm
  15. Fact: James and Dale believe that they must defend law enforcement criminals (yes, they are criminals) no matter what laws are broken.

    James: “The drug smuggler told this agent the third time they talked that he WAS smuggling drugs the day he was shot.” Fact: What does this point have to do with the law that forbids the shooting of unarmed suspects? Answer: Nothing.

    JamesFACT- DHS told a house subcommittee that the two agents said they were “out to shoot a mexican” that day and then had to admit “oh we lied” about that statement. Ok, and…? This has nothing to do with the FACT that they shot an unarmed suspect and then tried to cover it up.

    Comment by Scott — January 7, 2009 @ 11:14 pm
  16. James: “During the two October loads, The DEA, El Paso Sheriff, and Border Patrol all caught the doper at the stash house operated by Cipriano Ortiz Hernandez, who is now in prison also.” So James (this is like trying to reason with a 2 year old child), this piece of “evidence” somehow makes it ok that they shot the unarmed suspect in the back? No excuses James!

    James: “The jury had three members come forward and complain of the conduct of the jury foreman who told them that the judge told him, there will be no hung jury. Another juror was ready to get out of there so he could get out of town because spring break started that Friday.” Fact: All speculation!
    James: “his family members consider him the black sheep of the family (ok and I am sure there are those who consider you the black sheep of humanity James. Should we therefore conclude that you are pure evil James? Moreover, does that make it ok for officers to violate your rights whenever they feel the need to?) who has been smuggling drugs since he was 14 and NEVER moved a load without a weapon. Fact: James, the gun possession rumors fall under the heading of “hearsay.” It does not mean that the gentleman had a gun with him when the shooting occurred (The criminal officers were not backed by their honest colleagues because…THEY HAD DONE SOMETHING ILLEGAL).
    James: It is obvious that in your view anyone who has marijuana in their possession is not guaranteed the rights that other human beings have in our society. James, you need to go back to school and work on improving your rather poor critical thinking skills.
    Here is another “winner” by Michael: “So we now take the side of Coyotes, Mules, and illegal pimps over border guards.” Yes Michael when the facts are on the side of the suspect – not the pigs (oh see, I can use animal names as well). Does being sworn in as a border officer automatically give one the status of saint Michael? No! You are truly a pathetic joke Michael.

    Comment by Scott — January 7, 2009 @ 11:47 pm
  17. One final FACT for James, Michael and Dale: They are not getting a pardon! lol
    Stop your crying and lying…

    Comment by Scott — January 7, 2009 @ 11:51 pm
  18. Perhaps you should re-read my post Scott.

    Comment by Dale — January 8, 2009 @ 7:37 am
  19. “They are not going to get a pardon”.Not even if Lou Dobbs says they should? I personally hope not,but don’t underesteramate the outgoing nitwit,W. Dale’s first comment made me smirk,lol.The factual actions of these two agents does not say “heros” to me.

    Comment by Red Green — January 8, 2009 @ 9:08 am
  20. Dale, my apologies… I meant Michael.. not Dale.. You are cool Dale.
    peace

    Comment by Scott — January 8, 2009 @ 1:50 pm
  21. It is my hope, to all you ACLU types, that an illegal drug running pimp dosn’t stop at your place of residence. After all the drug lord was only looking to put food on his families table.

    Who cares if he was shot in the A$$, once again what does that prove. It proves he was shot in the A$$. So what!!! You insane pot smokin, red diaper doper babies would take the illegals side. After all his culture is far superior to ours. Why wouldn’t we want him and his countries poverty, corruption, sewage fertalizer, rampid drunk driving, rapes, and MS 13 here. It would make things so much better here. We have gone from the melting pot to the chamber pot thanks to all you ilk.

    Comment by Michael — January 8, 2009 @ 3:59 pm
  22. And then… any sense of sanity was lost by Michael..”Who cares if he was shot in the A$$, once again what does that prove.” Well, Michael, we just happen to believe that officers have to abide by an important thing called laws. Is that so hard to understand? You hate this man because he has marijuana and sells it – while I am sure you gulp down your alcohol on a regular basis – which is 1000 times more deady and destructive (along with nicotine) than marijuana and cocaine put together. But hey, you haven’t picked up a book since reading the X-Men comics in the 80′s. How would you know that alcohol prohibition laws caused more violence than we have ever experienced (in a non war time) in this country? When the laws against alcohol consumption ended, all of that gang war violence did as well. But hey, the laws against illicit drugs for the past 30 years have been successful.. in doing what I don’t know. They sure have not reduced illicit drug consumption one bit. But hey, a million more guns should do just fine to reduce illicit drug use in this country..true…well, yes….only in the mind of morons like Michael.

    Comment by Brian — January 8, 2009 @ 5:06 pm
  23. An illegal drug running pimp? Wow, what a large number of hats for a single guy to wear.

    From Walter Block’s indispendible book on freedom:

    On illegal drug dealing:

    In conclusion, it should be stated that heroin addiction may be an unmitigated evil, without any socially redeeming features. If so, efforts to publicize the evils of addiction can only be applauded. However, the present prohibition of heroin and other hard drugs serves no useful purpose. It has caused a countless amount of suffering, and great social upheaval. In seeking to uphold this vicious law, the narcotics agent keeps prices up and adds to the tragedy. It is only the heroin seller, by acting so as to lower prices, even at considerable personal risk, who saves lives and alleviates the tragedy somewhat.

    On Pimping:

    The function of the pimp … is that of a broker. In the same way as do brokers of real estate, insurance, stock market shares, investments, commodity futures, etc., the pimp serves the function of bringing together two parties to a transaction at less cost than it would take to bring them together without his good offices. Each party to a transaction served by a broker gains from the brokerage, otherwise they would not patronize him. And so it is in the case of the pimp. The customer is spared use-less or wasteful waiting and searching time. It is easier to phone a pimp for an assignation with a prostitute than to spend time and effort searching one out. The customer also has the security of knowing that the prostitute comes recommended.

    Comment by tarran — January 8, 2009 @ 5:25 pm
  24. Brian:

    I thought you good libs were open to everyones ideas, my groovy friend. What’s the matter didn’t take you mood alterating prozac today? Maybe moonbeam, you should come back to earth and spend a little time in a rehab facility instead of aiding this digerate lifestyle. See all the junkies strung out, close to death, who once rolled with your perverted theories.

    No moonbeam, this ACLU front website didn’t fool me one bit. It only took a little time to flush out the subversive terds. Yes, moonbeam your massiah Barack has arrived and who knows maybe he will do away with all drug laws, may you become a slaker junkie, instead of just a junkie.

    Comment by Michael — January 8, 2009 @ 5:36 pm
  25. In Michael’s comments….. notice how drug warriors always assume that individuals who are truly pro freedom (and hence anti drug prohibition) must be consumers of the “forbidden” drugs in our society. Michael, I have never used any illicit drugs. However, I use the most lethal drug in our country – nicotine. The difference between you and me is that I do not (in any way) believe I am better than the next person who happens to use marijuana or another outlawed substance.

    Michael uses the classic verbal tactics used by many police officer drug warriors when discussing this subject. He starts out by trying to win the argument with lame, irrelevent points. When his irrational assumptions are effectively challenged by others, he resorts to using insulting language to desperately make his point. As he realizes that no person with an IQ over 80 would buy his argument, he concludes his effort by writing something like: “Well, you will die anyway from your dope you liberal ACLU hippie.”
    What I have just described to readers (thank you Michael for serving as a perfect example) is a classic case of intellectual bankruptcy. People like Michael thrive on using misinformation, stereotypes, and lies to support his flawed ideas.

    When was the last time that you saw a police officer debate the war on drugs in an open forum? There is a reason why you probably have never seen an officer participate in such a setting. They know that the arena of fair, rational discussion is not a battlefield they can win on. Like most bullies, they favor conditions that are clearly unfair to their opponents. They feel more comfortable with their badge in hand and gun in the holster. Take those valued items away from them (as we saw in Ramos and Compean as they sat in the court room), and all their insecurities, fears… and guilt become strikingly obvious.

    Comment by Brian — January 8, 2009 @ 8:22 pm
  26. By the way, Michael, I am not an Obama fan. I’m a libertarian.

    Tarran… great writings by Block. Thanks, I have to get that book.

    Comment by Brian — January 8, 2009 @ 8:39 pm
  27. Like Brian, I’m a libertarian. I’m in favor of drug legalization and would probably be considered a “lefty” by a lot of the hard right-wing conservatives who have been demanding a pardon (they should say, “commutation”) for Ramos and Compean.

    BUT…. In regard to the imprisoned ex-agents…

    Let’s set aside the debate of “guilty or innocent” for a moment. Regardless of the debate, both men were convicted in court and the convictions (at least in regard to the gun charges) were upheld on appeal.

    But let me ask this: Is the punishment proportional to the crime?

    The main charge for which they are serving time was the federal charge of using a firearm during the act of committing another crime. (There are several congressmen on record as saying it was never the intent of the law that it should ever have been used against law enforcement officers.)

    For the firearms charge, BOTH MEN ARE SERVING TEN YEARS IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT.

    I’ve seen plenty of cases where people have been convicted of murder two and not received such a harsh sentence.

    As I understand it (and I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong) these guys have been placed in solitary “for their own protection” since they were former Border Patrol officers. This segregation is understandable… BUT…. as I understand it, the prison makes no distinction between “solitary” prisoners who are isolated for protection and those who are isolated for punishment.

    These two men have each been locked in a cell that’s… what? 8X10? 8X12? About the size of a large closet. They are limited to ONE fifteen minute phone call per month. No TV. No books or magazines. One hour out of the cell per day, with no human contact.

    How long would you last like this?

    Eleven and Twelve years in punitive solitary confinement.

    I’m not going to argue about their guilt, but I will say that I think the two years they’ve spent in solitary is punishment enough. I can’t imagine anyone being locked in a small, bare, windowless room for over a decade with and not emerging as a mental basket case when finally released.

    Comment by NonGrata — January 13, 2009 @ 1:43 pm
  28. This article has so many factual errors one does not know where to begin to refute them.

    All you have to do is this: Ask yourself, “If you were accused of a terrible crime and the primary witness against you was a big time (not small time) repeat drug offender, would you want/deserve the right to cross examine that witness in regards to his criminal activity?” Of course you would. Yet Ramos and Compean were never granted that basic right because of a brain fart decision made by the judge. And THAT is why they were convicted, NOT because of guilt.

    Comment by Howie Hardin — January 14, 2009 @ 6:34 am
  29. Howie:

    “This article has so many factual errors one does not know where to begin to refute them.”
    That’s weak!

    Let me also point out that this trial was NOT about the guilt or innocence of Aldrete-Dalvia. This trial was about whether or not Ramos and/or Compean acted criminally. These men had the opportunity to arrest Aldrete-Dalvia and take him to justice but chose instead to assault him.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — January 14, 2009 @ 7:42 am
  30. Howie, you had a big brain fart of your own when you made the gigantic assumption that cross examining the plantiff would have somehow won the case for the defendents.
    You have been sitting at home and watching way too many Perry Mason episodes. lol

    They shot at him something like 15 times and then tried to hide their crime. Perhaps you don’t read much (I would not be surprised).. But maybe you have not noticed the incredible number of stories of police abuse and unprofessional conduct.
    As this story points out, the officers had solid legal representation. When officers plant drugs on suspects and lie to boost arrest records, most defendents receive an overworked public defendent who lacks the resources needed to battle charges. Read about Tulia Howie.. Where half the African American population was arrested and jailed.. All based on the false testimony of the arresting officer…and the officer only received probation! Yes, Howie, many many police officers have lied in the process of gaining convictions. I am sure that many of them restionalize that the ends justify the means.. “I got one more marijuana using criminal away from society”.. As if that helped society in any way! Newsflash to Howie: It didn’t help society in any way.

    So you can keep bringing up the plantiff’s history of drug possession charges – but do not think you are going to convince most intelligent observers here that the men in blue were angels “just doing their job.” History will not look kindly on the drug warriors of this generation. Nor will history look kindly on those who made excuses for evil behavior.

    Comment by Brian — January 14, 2009 @ 5:26 pm
  31. The jailing of Ramos and Compean has already served its purpose: totally emasculating the Border Patrol for the benefit of the illegal alien industry. There are now no BP agents willing to take any significant action. Agents clock in for a shift, go through the motions, make a few easy apprehensions and clock out.

    However, leaving Ramos and Compean in jail just serves to rub salt in their wounds and costs us about $100,000 to keep them incarcerated.

    Comment by JM in San Diego CA — January 16, 2009 @ 11:24 pm
  32. I hate to pay any amount of money to keep criminals in jail, but that’s what we do. These guys, I’m sorry to say are where they belong. If following the law is to much to ask from our officers and agents than maybe they need a career change. I don’t want to live in a place where a badge and gun excuses criminal behavior, that’s why I live in the United States.

    Comment by OSCAR — January 17, 2009 @ 12:04 am
  33. JM wrote: “The jailing of Ramos and Compean has already served its purpose: totally emasculating the Border Patrol for the benefit of the illegal alien industry. There are now no BP agents willing to take any significant action.” JM, do you mean BP agents are no longer willing to shoot unarmed suspects in the back? Oh ok, I guess the jailing is setting a good example. JM, all border agents have chosen to not defend U.S. borders as a result of this case? JM makes it up as he goes along..lol

    Notice everyone that JM does not even address the fact that these agents shot an unarmed man (and then kept shooting at him!). People like JM believe that because one is an officer of the law, they are entitled to acting above the law.

    Comment by Brian — January 17, 2009 @ 12:35 am
  34. THE whole thing is simple!
    George Bush and the Bush Crime Family are protecting their scumbag dealers. LET OUR BORDER GUARDS GO AND PUT BUSH IN THE SLAMMER! What a piece of doo doo he WAS.

    Comment by Petra — January 17, 2009 @ 9:58 pm
  35. oh..and…too bad they didn’t blow the slimeball’s brains out! The ONLY crime Ramos and Campeon are ‘guilty’ of is not being better shots! How about this: Give them raises, Give them promotions, and teach them to shoot STRAIGHTER!

    Comment by Petra — January 17, 2009 @ 10:01 pm
  36. Oh Petra, if only you and the other half-wits could form a coherent argument.

    Comment by Brian — January 17, 2009 @ 11:46 pm
  37. This is sick. People defending drug dealers because they don’t believe drugs are bad, then saying that the agents should stay in prison because what they did was illegal. Well, regardless of right and wrong, there are laws. Marijuana is illegal in this country, and so is undocumented immigration. It’s illegal to shoot an unarmed man in the butt while he runs away as well. There is no proof that the man was unarmed – that was just the conclusion of the court. To say that either party is not guilty would be wrong – both parties admit breaking the law in one way or another. The big question I’ve had is why we would protect an illegally immigrating drub dealer and demonize our own border patrol agents. If anyone wonders why nobody stops illegal immigrants as they cross, this might shed some light on it. I don’t imagine any border agents will be doing anything even remotely similar to stopping an illegal now, especially if he’s hauling drugs. I have to wonder if all the people who want to condemn these two agents would be as enthusiatic if the drug dealer had shot an agent in the butt. I can almost hear it, “Well, the drug dealer didn’t KILL the officer, so he should be pardoned. Drugs are illegal, but there’s nothing wrong with shipping them in from Mexico.” Whatever. Regardless of the law, we all now know that this man is a drug dealer, and has abused his immunity as a result of this case to continue to bring drugs across the border. The agents in prison are serving time for injuring this man (not killing him), while he continues to freely break US laws in numerous ways, with our knowledge. It seems to me that a lot of you are more concerned about getting cheap drugs than you are about enforcing the laws that we put in place to protect our country and our families. When drugs are legal, I’ll entertain all this crap about a drug dealer being a ‘businessman’ trying to earn a living. These agents were legitimately employed American citizens attempting to do their jobs in the environment they were presented with. Even though they did not follow procedure, they deserve a little more consideration than a non-American ILLEGAL drug dealer who entered our country ILLEGALLY with unknown intentions. At the very least, this criminal should be in prison with the agents he evaded, and the relationship between the Az Border Patrol and this drug dealer needs to be investigated thoroughly.

    Comment by James — January 19, 2009 @ 8:09 am
  38. James “The big question I’ve had is why we would protect an illegally immigrating drub dealer and demonize our own border patrol agents.”..well James it is a big question only for someone like you who lacks knowledge and insight concerning ethics issues. James, officers are not allowed to shoot unarmed suspects. And there is considerable evidence suggesting the suspect did not have weapons on him. To you (and this is quite pathetic) because someone wears a badge, they are morally superior (regardless of actions) than someone who possesses marijuana. James feels more comfortable living in a fantasy world where cops are all good – while someone who has trace amounts of marijuana in their possession is pure evil.

    Nobody said “drugs are good” James. I am sure you use alcohol (I do-at least I can be honest about it). So you are a drug user as well. What is bad is when officers are given a pass (and they get a pass way too often in our society) for engaging in criminal acts.

    James: “I don’t imagine any border agents will be doing anything even remotely similar to stopping an illegal now, especially if he’s hauling drugs.” Yea, 5 million people just crossed the border last night because agents refused to stop them.. I didn’t notice that story.. Did you?
    By the way, Bush is leaving tomorrow..
    No pass James. No pass..

    Comment by Brian — January 19, 2009 @ 11:17 am
  39. Three cheers for Ramos and Compean! Welcome home soon! My only regret is that the sentences were commuted instead of pardoned.

    I find it disturbing that it seems that the various misanthropes that frequent this website seem to vilify Border Patrol Agents, indeed any sort of societal order, and cannonize a drug smuggler. Comparing Aldrete-Davila to an entrepreneur is akin to calling Adolf Hitler a really, really effective community organizer.

    Oh, to whoever it was that commented that a free society welcomes everyone, does that include the various rapists, murderers, theives and other social deviants that are caught on a daily basis attempting to cross the border illegally (I know this from personal, first-hand experience)? What of terrorists? People with diseases that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy? We men and women who defend your nation’s front door have or will face these things gladly for the privilige of calling ourselves The Nation’s First Line of Defense.

    You’re welcome.

    Comment by Padraigh — January 19, 2009 @ 11:32 am
  40. I am actually not surprised by this decision by Bush. A totalitarian regime must support its police state (no matter what criminal actions are excused).

    “Comparing Aldrete-Davila to an entrepreneur is akin to calling Adolf Hitler a really, really effective community organizer.”
    I have a much more accurate analogy for you:
    Saying that police officers who engage in criminal activities (Like the border agents – who will never again work as officers) are “just keeping the country safe” ..is like saying Hitler was keeping Germany safe by exterminating the Jews. Just because you have the power to rule a country – or have been given a badge – does not give you any right to act like a totalitarian thug in the name of “border security.” If you do not realize that there have been countless cases of extraordinarily abusive tactics used by police officers in this country, then you are a bigger fool than I first thought.
    However, I would never (nor should anyone else) condone criminal acts that violate a person or one’s property. Being in possession of marijuana does not violate another human being in any way. Please don’t bring up the “evils” of marijuana argument. It is as bankrupt as the idea that by arresting as many individuals as possible who are in possession of weed the demand for it will be reduced. This criminal justice policy has never worked – and it never will. In actuality, the drug laws have enabled the illegal drug trade to flourish.

    Comment by Brian — January 19, 2009 @ 5:48 pm
  41. WAAAAA Get over it, they should have killed the dam drug dealer, They did make a mistake but with the Green card the DEMOCRAPS gave to Davila to yet again bring drugs to the USA again, not as an illegal but as a resident alien, wich is worse? I dont get you guys. No drug dealer is ever without a weapon of some sort.

    In cases where there are drugs in the quantities like this case, “judge, jury, and executioner” is fine with me.

    Comment by John — January 19, 2009 @ 7:22 pm
  42. Brian, I’m guessing you work in a very safe, predictable environment, free from any real dangers. I know I do. That is why I can’t imagine what these BP agents go through on a daily basis.

    There are very real dangers they face every day, and that certainly colors their world and perception of interfacing with other people. I personally am relieved that Pres Bush has commuted their sentences, and like a previous poster, am saddened only that he did not fully pardon them. They ARE heroes. They protect our country daily from scum bag, law breaking thugs that don’t care one bit for a civilzed society complete with rules and humanity.

    Against the law to shoot unarmed criminals?!? So every criminal out there that can outrun the police should be allowed to just “run away” from authority to freedom, just because he doesn’t carry a gun? Ridiculous. That’s ok though, because I know there are BP agents out there along with thousands of other brave soldiers of freedom protecting our borders who continue to do their jobs to keep us safe, despite whiny verbally abusive pansies like you sitting in your safe little world sipping your cosmopolitans and spewing liberal rhetoric around like so much poison.

    By the way, if you want to call me to talk politics, you won’t need to “press 1″ for English. This is America; English IS OUR LANGUAGE. If you want any other language, go the Hell back to your own country!

    Comment by Dennis — January 19, 2009 @ 10:47 pm
  43. Actually, for the last 15 years I have been a social worker. I work in a very tough neighborhood without the “luxury” of having firearms or police officers at my side. Most of my clients have long standing mental health and substance use issues. Many of them also have been beaten and abused by officers. Don’t assume that officers have the only dangerous job. And definitely don’t assume that all illicit substance users are alike! How ignorant can you be? Your silly point about the importance of the English language would mean something if you could make a coherent point – when using the English language.
    To answer your question: Yes, officers should not shoot at an unarmed suspect – even when he or she is trying to run away! At any rate, the border agents will always be convicted felons. This is fitting punishment. Perhaps border agents will think twice before engaging in criminal acts.

    Comment by Brian — January 19, 2009 @ 11:45 pm
  44. …. Actually, for the last 15 years I have been a social worker. I work in a very tough neighborhood without the “luxury” of having firearms or police officers at my side. Most of my clients have long standing mental health and substance use issues. Many of them also have been beaten and abused by officers. Don’t assume that officers have the only dangerous job. And definitely don’t assume that all illicit substance users are alike! How ignorant can you be? Your silly point about the importance of the English language would mean something if you could make a coherent point – when using the English language.
    To answer your question: Yes, officers should not shoot at an unarmed suspect – even when he or she is trying to run away! At any rate, the border agents will always be convicted felons. This is fitting punishment. Perhaps border agents will think twice before engaging in criminal acts.

    Comment by Brian — January 20, 2009 @ 12:05 am
  45. NonGrata:

    Under federal sentencing guidelines §2A1.2, second-degree murder has a Base Offense Level of 38 (43 is the maximum, with a sentencing guideline of “life” even for offenders in Criminal History Category 1). The federal sentencing guideline for a person convicted of second-degree murder who was a minimal participant in the offense (-4 from Base Offense Level), accepts responsibility for the offense (-2 from Base Offense Level), and cooperates in the investigation or prosecution by quickly entering a guilty plea (-1 from Base Offense Level) is 108-135 months for offenders in Criminal History Category 1. Unless there is a compelling reason to depart from the guidelines, that’s the extreme low-end for a federal murder sentence. Now add the minimum sentence prescribed by statute (18 U.S.C. § 924(c)) for using, carrying, brandishing, or discharging a firearm during and in relation to any crime of violence. I suspect that of those “plenty of cases”, not one was subject to federal sentencing guidelines and § 924(c). And to be clear, no one was (and no one is) sentenced in U.S. courts to solitary confinement (except in the movies).

    The Bureau of Prisons makes a distinction between administrative detention and disciplinary segregation. “Inmates housed in disciplinary segregation have significantly fewer privileges than those housed in administrative detention.” (28 CFR § 541.21(a)) Inmates can be segregated for either reason, and segregation for administrative reasons has never been defined as “punitive”. Note that inmates have no right to be or remain in general population–that’s an administrative decision made primarily for the security of the institution and the safety, health, and welfare of the inmates and staff.

    Since you bring up cell size, I’ll point out that BOP protective custody units are considered high security units which must have slightly larger cells. Specifically, high security cells less than 75 sq. ft. are rated single-occupancy and 75% of larger cells are rated single-occupancy, while minimum security cells that are only 55 sq. ft. are rated single-occupancy and all larger cells are rated double-occupancy. That’s not too much of a silver lining, though, since inmates in high security special housing units tend to have fewer privileges than those in the general population.

    Human contact is not always a good thing in a prison environment, but I’ll assume you mean contact visits. “Ordinarily, an inmate retains visiting privileges while in detention or segregation status. Visiting may be restricted or disallowed, however, when an inmate, while in detention or segregation status, is charged with, or has been found to have committed, a prohibited act having to do with visiting guidelines or has otherwise acted in a way that would reasonably indicate that he or she would be a threat to the orderliness or security of the visiting room.” (28 CFR § 540.50(c)) As for telephone privileges, “except as provided in this rule, the Warden shall permit an inmate who has not been restricted from telephone use as the result of a specific institutional disciplinary sanction to make at least one telephone call each month” (28 CFR § 540.100(b)) and “ordinarily, an inmate who has sufficient funds is allowed at least three minutes for a telephone call.” (28 CFR § 540.101(d)) BOP does not allow in-cell televisions, however, “an inmate in administrative detention shall be permitted to have a radio, provided that the radio is equipped with ear plugs.” (28 CFR § 541.22(d))

    No books or magazines? Not a chance. Do you know that you’re passing along misinformation? “Except when precluded by statute (see §540.72 [pertaining to sexually explicit material]), the Bureau of Prisons permits an inmate to subscribe to or to receive publications without prior approval and has established procedures to determine if an incoming publication is detrimental to the security, discipline, or good order of the institution or if it might facilitate criminal activity.” Even inmates in disciplinary segregation are allowed reading material: “Staff shall provide a reasonable amount of non-legal reading material, not to exceed five books per inmate at any one time, on a circulating basis. Staff shall provide the inmate opportunity to possess religious scriptures of the inmate’s faith.” (28 CFR § 541.21(c), basic living standards for segregation)

    The conditions of Ramos’s and Compean’s incarceration are lawful and not intended as punishment beyond that ordered by the court. As the convicts say, “If you don’t like it, don’t go to prison.”

    Since I, like the OP, am opposed to mandatory minimum sentencing laws on principle, I think the commutations were appropriate and that they should have been accompanied by thousands of others. The conditions of Ramos’s and Compean’s confinement doesn’t enter into it. Had they been in general population they would have had less time on the phone, in visits, watching television, and on the yard–and a lot more time six feet in the ground.

    Did someone really use “red diaper baby” as an epithet? Is that a parody troll or is someone stuck in 1964?

    Comment by 5thKolumnisto — January 20, 2009 @ 2:58 am
  46. Wow Brian. Thank you for pointing out that you are the ONLY ONE here making a coherent point. Maybe we should just all shut up and take notes on your endless banter about how right you are and everyone else is just a blubbering idiot.

    And yes, speaking English is a valid coherent point. Since we have allowed an endless stream of self entitled aliens into our country, they now seem to think we NEED to learn to speak their language.

    I say shoot these lazy bastards BEFORE they infect us. What’s the problem with that? I don’t see any. And YES, pot is illegal. I don’t care how innocuous you think it may be to smoke it – it’s ILLEGAL. And smuggling it into the country is illegal and needs to be answered with any force necessary to stop it. BTW, I think many drugs that are now illegal should be legal, but until they are anyone who knowingly is involved with ANY aspect of drug use or trafficking does not deserve any sympathy or benefit of the doubt. He drove a truck into our country with 750 lbs of marijuana in it. That’s a fact and he’s an idiot. I wish the BP agents would have been a better shot and made a fatal shot.

    Comment by Dennis — January 20, 2009 @ 5:26 am
  47. >>Do they really want to make every law enforcement officer in the country judge, jury, and executioner and grant the right to use lethal force against a fleeing supect*?

    Do yourself a favor and take a basic criminal law class sometime.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_v._Garner

    The key part is in the first paragraph “[...] when a law enforcement officer is pursuing a fleeing suspect, he or she may use deadly force only to prevent escape if the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.”

    A key word missing there (I think, if I remember my case law correctly) is “immediate”. The display of a firearm would be a significant immediate threat. A van full of dope certainly lends itself to probable cause that someone might not be too happy they were going to lose their dope.

    Go spend a week down on the border. Go do a ride-along with some of the Agents in El Paso.

    Bush is a coward for merely commuting their sentences and not granting them a full pardon. Obama is a coward if he doesn’t clean up Bush’s mistake. And I’ll save some of your posters the trouble by saying I’m a coward for not posting my name and e-mail address to be associated with the reprehensible tone of the content on this post.

    I hope stomach cancer runs in your family.

    Comment by Free Ramos & Compean — January 22, 2009 @ 8:53 pm
  48. Hey jackass, they didn’t even know the van had dope at the time our brave heroes shot the man in the back. So where’s the probable cause? How many times must I explain this?

    Comment by Stephen Littau — January 23, 2009 @ 8:38 am
  49. [...] are a few choice comments in response to a recent post where I argued that Ramos and Compean should not receive presidential pardons. I was aware that this [...]

    Pingback by The Liberty Papers »Blog Archive » Dumbass and Authoritarians Among Us — January 26, 2009 @ 12:18 pm

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