Monday, December 3, 2007
The Houston Chronicle reports on the latest chapter in the case of Border Patrol officers Ignacio "Nacho" Ramos and Jose Compean, which has become a cause celeb among restrictionists.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit heard arguments today by attorneys for Ignacio "Nacho" Ramos and Jose Compean, who are serving sentences of 11 and 12 years in prison respectively for shooting a fleeing drug smuggler in the buttocks and covering it up.
"It does seem to me like the government overreacted here," said Judge E. Grady Jolly, questioning prosecutor Mark Stelmach before a crowded courtroom. Judge Jolly asked whether Ramos or Compean would have been prosecuted if they had reported the shooting of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, who was wounded on Feb. 17, 2005, near Fabens, southeast of El Paso. Compean picked up the shell casings at the scene of the shooting and neither agent volunteered to supervisors that they fired their weapon. "They are being prosecuted for hiding the crime," Jolly said, suggesting the prosecution "got out of hand." Stelmach argued there was "balance in the treatment of the agents," saying the judge could have given them stiffer sentences on other charges besides the firearm offense such as assault.
The two Border Patrol officers were found guilty by a federal jury after a 2½-week trial on charges of assault, violation of civil rights, use of a firearm during a crime of violence and obstruction of justice. Attorneys for the former agents are pushing for a new trial, arguing, among other things, that the agents acted in self-defense. They also contend that Ramos and Compean were improperly charged with discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.
The person shot, Aldrete, was driving a van that was found to hold 743 pounds of marijuana. He tried to flee on foot back to Mexico across the Rio Grande and was shot.