First off, I want to thank Marc for inviting me to post as an author here at Black Shards. Marc and I have been moving buddies now for four years and thanks to the Internet we have stayed in touch even though we live relatively far apart.
In thinking about what to write I pondered many topics that I think deserve a real treatment. Iraq, the booming economy, Illegal Immigration, the exercise of the President’s authority to pardon Scooter Libby are all worthy topics. But, there is one topic that I think is getting less attention then it deserves. So, if you don’t know about this then settle down and pull up a chair. I am going to introduce you to Border Agent’s Nacho Ramos and Jose Compeon.
It was just two years ago that these two men were part of a group of agents that tracked and captured a Mexican national illegally in the United States smuggling about 800 pounds of dope. In the process of capturing the smuggler, one Oswaldo Aldrete-Davilla, Agent Compeon got into a scuffle with him and Mr. Davilla managed to escape and began to run. Agent Compeon fired his pistol at Mr. Davilla 14 times missing every time. Then Agent Ramos, arriving on the scene as Mr. Davilla was running through the scrub brush and hearing the multiple gun shots took one shot at Mr. Davilla (apparently also missing). Mr. Davilla swam across the Rio Grande, got into a waiting car and drove off. You can read all of this from the trial transcripts if you desire.
And now it gets complex. The Agents (along with at least two others) decided not to officially file a report of the shooting. That their superiors knew of the shooting was apparent from the trial transcripts, but they chose not to report the shooting. Why? Perhaps it was to avoid paperwork since they didn’t apparently hit the smuggler. But there was no report filed.
The real complexity comes from this point forward… at the trial the government says that Mr Davilla told his mother that he was injured by the Border Patrol and she then called her friend who’s son was a Border Patrol Agent in Arizona. He checked the logs and saw that while there was a record of the van full of drugs being captured, there was no shooting. He then raised this as a red flag and the wheels of justice turned quickly. After an investigation by the Border Patrol and the US Attorney’s office, immunity was granted to two of the other agents present that day to testify against Ramos and Compeon. The initial charges were that they had failed to report the shooting of an individual on duty.
But, even with those two agents the government had a problem. They were unlikely to be able to get a conviction if they couldn’t prove that Mr Davilla was actually shot by these two (well one actually). So, the US government sent a delegation to Mexico to meet with Mr. Davilla and offered him a grant of immunity if he would also testify. They also offered him free medical treatment and…wait for it…a free transit visa to cross into the US.
So, now armed with his neato spiffy keen visa, Mr Davilla drives another van across the border carrying…you guessed it, another 800 pounds of dope. Is he charged for that crime? Nope, he isn’t. When the US Attorney is asked about it, they dissemble and say there is no record of any arrest. Which is correct…he wasn’t arrested (debatably because the US Attorney’s office requested that he not be). When that tidbit was finally released the response now is…well, we can’t comment on an ongoing investigation.
The trial is an interesting read if you have the time. The gist of the gov’t’s case boils down to this. These guys (Ramos and Compeon) went out and shot this guy for no reason. In fact, they didn’t even have the authority to chase this guy at all. After all this poor guy didn’t even know that he was moving dope. He didn’t know what was in the van, he was just driving it. Heck, he was only doing it for the money for his poor sick mother, and these mean agents just shot him when he tried to run away.
They were convicted at the end of trial of shooting Mr Davilla, but the real fun doesn’t end here. The real fun comes when one of the charges that was added after the initial arraignment USC 924 (c) (1) (a), which states that the penalty for committing a crime tried in a Federal Court in which a firearm is discharged is required to carry an additional 10 years of sentence. Obviously this was because the Congress wanted to crack down on crimes of gun violence by criminals. The problem is that by these standards, any law enforcement officer who ends up found guilty of a violent crime while on duty would get tacked with a mandatory 5 years tack on. This was not what the Congress intended by the law according to Senators as far apart politically as John Cornyn (R-TX), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) as both have urged the President to commute the sentences.
“We believe that this is a case of prosecutorial overreaching, and to allow Agents Ramos and Compean to serve more than a decade in prison would represent a serious miscarriage of justice,” they wrote.
“We urge you to commute their prison sentences immediately.”
Senator Feinstein was particular in her questioning of US Attorney Johnny Sutton in this exchange
Feinstein asked Sutton when agents should be able to fire weapons while pursuing a fleeing suspect. Sutton replied, “If a person does not pose a threat to them, they have to use other than deadly force.”
“How do they do that?”
“They chase them off.”
“And, if they try to chase them and chase fails, while they are still yelling ‘Stop?’”
“That does not authorize them to shoot.”
“So, in other words,” Feinstein clarified, “any drug dealer on the border who doesn’t obey a stop command and runs, cannot be shot?”
“Yes ma’am,” Sutton replied. “Unless there are other circumstances, but just the fact they are running and they were a drug dealer is not enough.”
“No wonder so much drugs are coming across the border,” Feinstein said.
Sutton later said that if the laws were relaxed it would mean that “some [innocent] people are going to get gunned down execution-style by a cop.”
Its been a long journey for these two men, and their families. One was put in the general population of a prison with a large MS-13 presence and he was beaten severely. It took over a year to even get a hearing on this issue. One of the reasons was the duplicity of the Department of Homeland Security and the US Attorney General. When Congress first started to ask about this issue last year, the response from both groups was to either lie to the Congress (which the DHS admitted to doing and said that it was OK because it wasn’t sworn testimony), or to “leak” information not germane to the trial that made one of the defendants appear to be a wild, out of control madman. What is the old saw about the ad hominem attack?
When you continue to find item after item that makes you go “hmmm, that’s odd” about this case you start to have to apply Friar Occam’s Razor and realize that the simplest solution is that they either never should have been convicted, or at the very least never should have been sentenced to 11 and 12 years in prison.