Justice At Last for Ramos and Compean (Rep. Dana Rohrabacher)

Today is a day of celebration.  A four year nightmare has finally come to an end for  Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, who were unjustly prosecuted and sentenced to 11 and 12 years in federal prison, for shooting and wounding an illegal alien drug smuggler along the Texas/Mexico border in 2005.  The outrage over their convictions and subsequent incarceration reverberated throughout America and across party lines.

For over 2 ½ years, dozens of Members of Congress and millions of Americans rallied in support of the agents. Many of us, myself included, believed Ramos and Compean deserved a full pardon from President Bush. It was clear to most that these men were the victims of an overzealous prosecutor who inexplicably decided to take the word of a drug smuggler over two veteran border patrol agents when he claimed he was unarmed while smuggling over a million dollars worth of drugs.  The U.S. Attorney’s office made the decision to grant immunity to the illegal alien drug smuggler, provided free medical care for his injuries and issued unconditional border crossing cards permitting him to come and go between Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, TX freely.  It later turned out, the government’s star witness and “victim” Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, continued to smuggle drugs while waiting to testify against Ramos and Compean.  The U.S. Attorney’s office knew about the subsequent transgressions but successfully petitioned the trial judge to seal the evidence from the jury claiming the information “was not relevant.”  So much for a fair trial.

Even more troubling was the fact U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, who oversaw the prosecution and personal friend of President Bush, decided to stack the charges against Ramos and Compean  by adding on what is known as §924 (c), the use of a firearm during a crime of violence, which carries a 10 year mandatory minimum sentence.  No other law enforcement officers have been charged under this statute while performing their official duties  during the forty year history of that law. Zero.

The law was intended to send a message to criminals to leave their guns at home, not  as a deterrent to law enforcement officers.  These courageous men and women face an ever growing level of violence from drug cartels, drug smugglers, human traffickers, gang members and other violent criminals who seem to be emboldened with each passing day.  There were 1,097 assaults against Border Patrol agents in 2008 alone. Any hesitation to draw their weapon in a split second decision could cost them their life. What message did the Ramos and Compean prosecution send to the countless law enforcement professionals who put their lives on the line everyday to protect America?

While Ramos and Compean endured the hell of solitary confinement for over two years, Members of Congress and the American people never gave up the fight for their freedom.
Ramos was even severely beaten by illegal alien gang members within days of reporting to prison. Both men spent 23 out of 24 hours a day in their cells. No TV. Restricted phone calls. Limited visitation.  In fact, their conditions of confinement were worse than  detainees in Guantanamo Bay!

On January 19, 2009, our prayers were finally answered. On his final full day in office, President Bush commuted the remaining ten year sentences of Ramos and Compean, effective as of March 20, 2009.  Unfortunately, without a full pardon, Ramos and Compean remain convicted felons.  Many challenges still lay ahead for these men and their families as they begin to piece their lives back together.  But thanks to the unrelenting support and righteous anger of the American people, they do so as free men.

This case was the worst miscarriage of justice I’d seen in my thirty years in Washington.  It was an honor  and a privilege to have been at the forefront of the effort to right this wrong.  As of today, justice has finally been served.