The below story was written by Gary and originally posted at American Freedom Riders
by Gary Brugman 2-20-07
On January 14, 2001 I was assigned to the M-23 area of Eagle Pass, Texas. We were shorthanded on personnel at the time, so my partner Deomar Ramirez and I responded to the sensor activity a few miles south of our assigned area. On that particular evening Agent Enrique Vasquez was assigned to the scope truck. He was in the Rosetta Farms pecan orchard when at approximately 1900 hours he observed a group of 10-12 aliens walking through the orchard. As he approached the group, they began to run. My partner and I had arrived into the area and I got a visual on them. I jumped out of the patrol vehicle and began chasing them on foot as my partner drove around and tried to cut off access to the river. I chased them through the orchard for about 15 minutes, approximately one and a half miles, continuously yelling for them to stop (in the Spanish language). At one point I began to lose ground on them due to all of my equipment weighing me down. Agent Remberto Perez and Trainee Agent Marcelino Alegria rolled up on me in a vehicle and asked me which way they went. I pointed into the orchard and they drove in that direction. I saw that they had come across a concrete lateral (ditch), and Trainee Alegria got out and ran after the group himself. He caught up to the group quickly since he had a fresh pair of legs. Trainee Alegria was trying to get them to sit down and it seemed that he didn't have control of the situation. Some were sitting as directed, but they were gathered around Trainee Alegria in a semicircle manner. In other words, there were aliens in front of him, to his left and behind him. As I jogged up to the scene, I saw that two aliens behind him were not complying with his task direction to sit on the ground. They were in fact squatting on one knee, looking at his back and making lunging movements. At this time, I didn't know if they were getting ready to run, or attack the Trainee Agent. I ran up to the aliens and with the bottom of my foot I pushed the first alien to the ground (later identified as Miguel Angel Jimenez-Saldana) and told him to sit down as I said "SIENTENSE". I then turned to a second alien and pushed him to the ground too. Agent Hector Aponte was the agent assigned to drive the Transport van that night. He picked up the illegals and transported them back to the station for processing.
Six weeks later, on February 22, 2001 at approximately 0500 hours, myself and several other Agents responded to sensor activity and a report of 10-46 (Narcotics) traffic that had just come across the river. Agent Niño was operating the infrared cameras and guided us into the area. Agent Niño had advised us that on the infrared cameras, he had observed approximately six to eight subjects come across Leonards Pecan Orchard carrying what appeared to be bundles (Narcotics). My partner Agent Serrano-Piche and I, along with several other units quietly moved into the area and attempted to apprehend the smugglers. Once we made our presence made, they scattered in several different directions. We apprehended about four, when the camera operator notified me that he has spotted two subjects hunkered down in the brush not too far away. I had my night vision goggles and with the help Agent Niño on the camera, I was guided towards the subjects through the darkness and mist. Eventually, I saw the subjects and proceeded to walk towards them slowly. Once they figured out that I could see them, they took off running towards the river. I gave chase and continuously yelled for them to stop (again in Spanish). There was a fence between them and the river, and since I was really close they turned and ran parallel to the fence towards to West. I was still very close to them when they came to another barb wire fence about fifty yards down the first fenceline. The first subject leaped in between the barb wire strands in a 'Superman' fashion. The second subject hit the strands head on and flopped over the fence. I had on body armor and with so much momentum going, I too flopped over the fence. All three of us were on the ground on the other side of this fence, when the first subject got up and ran off. The second was getting up when I grabbed his legs before he could get away. We were both wrestling while trying to stand up at the same time. All of a sudden, I somehow got flipped and ended up on my back with the subject, a dope smuggler, sitting on top of me. We had each other by the neck and collar, and he had my right hand pinned to the ground. I remember thinking to myself "Oh my God, I'm losing!!!" I twisted my right hand free and hit him on the side of his face knocking him off of me. He ended up on my left side and his right arm was underneath my body. I told him to stop fighting. I could then feel him grabbing my handcuffs with the arm that was underneath me. I then punched him in the face three times until he said to me "Okay officer, stop hitting me". I stopped and told him "Then stop fighting!!!" I layed on top of him until Agent Enrique Vasquez arrived and helped me handcuff the subject. I notified all of my Supervisors at the scene of the altercation that had occurred. All of the subjects were transported to the Eagle Pass Border Patrol station for processing. Pictures were immediately taken of all of Rodriguez-Silvas' injuries, and documentation was made. My Supervisors told me not to write a memo, just document it on the I-213, which I did. He was turned over to DEA, prosecuted, convicted on four felony charges and sentenced to fifty-seven months in a Federal Prison. His name was Miguel Angel Rodriguez-Silva.
On March 15, 2001 Watch Commander Jimmie Hellekson called me into his office and I was relieved of my service weapon. When I asked why, he said that all he knew was that I was under investigation. From that point on I was in limbo, without an explanation of any kind. The only possible reason I could think of was that it was in respect to the narcotics smuggler, Miguel Angel Rodrigeuez-Silva. For the next 14 months I replayed the night of February 22, 2001 over and over and could not figure out what I had done wrong. It was May 14, 2002 that I got a letter from AUSA Bill Baumann notifying me that I was the target of an investigation and he was inviting me to my Grand Jury. The invitation stated that I may be charged with violating the civil rights of a Miguel Angel Jimenez-Saldaña on Jan 14, 2001. I thought to myself "Jimenez-Saldaña?, Who is that?" It took me four whole days of looking through records and paperwork to figure out who I was working with, where I was working and what had happened, until I realized that it was the illegal that I had pushed on the ground. Now, nothing made sense to me. This man had no injury. I never laid a hand on him. My attorney, Ronald H. Tonkin, advised me to decline the invitation, which I did. On August 21, 2002 I was indicted, I surrendered to the U.S. Marshals in Del Rio, Texas, and was released on my own recognizance. In September, I appeared for arraignment in Del Rio, and Judge William Wayne Justice said he believed this case could be better tried in San Antonio, Texas. I agreed.
On October 28, 2002 I was brought to trial in Austin, Texas; a venue that I had not agreed to. Jury Selection began that morning. The prosecution had a separate list of special questions for the jurors in order to hand pick a jury. Selection was complete by that afternoon and trial began. The first thing that AUSA Bill Baumann did under the direction of Johnny Sutton, along with DOJ Trial Attorney Brent Alan Gray, was ask that the incident involving the narcotics smuggler Rodriguez-Silva on February 22nd be introduced as evidence. I objected due to the fact that he was a convicted drug smuggler, who I myself had arrested and was the primary reason he was already serving time in the first place. Plus, the incident happened six weeks after the indicted offense. Most of all, it had absolutely nothing to do with what I was being charged with and no allegations had ever been made that I had, in any way, violated any Border Patrol policy when I apprehended him. However, Judge Justice allowed the evidence to be presented despite my objections. On the prosecutions table sat AUSA Bill Baumann, Brent Alan Gray, OIG Agent Gary Moore, and the Mexican Consulate along with an associate that was working the computer and slide projector. Jimenez-Saldaña was called to the stand. Jimenez told his version of the story as Baumann asked questions. Bill Baumann took the incident and changed my words to benefit the Government. When I pushed Jimenez and the other subject on the ground, I told them to sit and then I asked "Why are you running?" It is a standard question that every Law Enforcement Officer has asked a subject that has ran from them. I always asked that question because it's been my experience that many times they will tell you the truth..."I've been deported", "I have drugs on me", "I have warrants". It's a standard law enforcement question. Baumann continuously and intentionally misquoted me as saying Do you like to run? So you like to run, huh?" Words I never said. But, he kept on repeating in front of the jury dozens of times. When I was testifying, I told him what I had actually said, then he mocked me by saying "Why did you ask them that? Were you concerned about their health? Did you want to take them for a jog? Put them on an exercise program, maybe?"
A critical factor at trial was that Jimenez could not identify me as the one who had allegedly kicked him. My Attorney asked me to stand up, then asked Jimenez if I was the one that had assaulted him. He looked at me and said "I don't know, I never saw his face." Agent Alegria testified that I had pushed someone with my foot, but did not know if Jimenez was the one I pushed. Alegria also testified that I had punched three subjects. However, Jimenez testified that he was never punched by me but that I punched someone else. Agent Perez who was 80-100 yards away testified that he had seen me kick one of the aliens, but that he never saw me punch anyone. That's three different testimonies as to what happened that night. I testified that I did push Jimenez with my foot, but I never laid hands on anyone...which is why I used my foot in the first place.
Jimenez was asked if anyone had made him any promises, or offered him anything in exchange for testimony, he said no. However in a TV interview for Univision TV show "Aqui y Ahora" (a Spanish TV show) that aired on about June 3, 2003, he claimed that he was coming to the U.S. to earn money for his daughter's chemotherapy. This information was withheld by the prosecution during my trial. At the end of the interview, the anchorwoman said that his daughter had received the chemotherapy she needed. Who paid for that chemotherapy, I don't know. But it would have been a major issue during trial.
The prosecution then called the convicted drug smuggler, Rodriguez-Silva to the stand to testify against me. The same Rodriguez-Silva who I had captured on Feb. 22, 2001 and who fought me to avoid capture. The same man who had since been convicted of smuggling drugs and sentenced to over 5 years in prison. Since he was still an actual inmate and in custody, he was followed into the courtroom by a Deputy U.S. Marshal who sat right behind him on the witness stand during his entire testimony. Through the length of his testimony, the prosecution projected a picture that was taken of him immediately after his arrest that showed his bloody nose and some grass on his face. It also showed other injuries such as scratches from when he went over the barb wire fence, and strap marks on his shoulders from carrying the bundles of dope which weighed over 80 pounds each. But of course, these injuries were also attributed to me by the prosecution. Rodriguez told the truth until it got to the point of apprehension, he testified that while he was running away I was yelling "Stop you F***ing Son of a bitch or I'll shoot you!" I never said those words. The only thing I yelled was "Parense!" (meaning, "stop!" in the Spanish language). He testified that he had twisted his foot and that was why I was able to "easily" apprehend him. He also claimed that I took a pair of gloves out of my pocket, put them on and then proceeded to punch him in the face. My former Supervisor William O. Willigham, now the Border Organized Crime Coordinator (BOCC), testified that for years he tried to get me to take my gloves off. You see, I would ride my motorcycle to work and wear my gloves. Since everything was so gross at the station, I would keep them on. SBPA Willingham was always telling me he didn't like me wearing them inside the building. He testified that he doubted very much that I was not wearing my gloves. But Baumann had to make me out to be this brutal person who was out for blood. It is simply unrealistic that a person who is fighting to get away after being busted with 800 + pounds of marijuana would sit there and allow me to put on a pair of gloves so that I can punch him in the face.
During my cross examination, Baumann immediately began ridiculing me and my character. He began by asking me if I had been hired as a "special" hire, since I'm a disabled veteran. I told him no. He then asked if they (the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center) had bent the rules for me so that I can make it through the academy, and I said no. I graduated 18th out of a class of 51 and it wasn't because they bent the rules. He continuously misled the jury by making false statements and changing my words. He did this so many times that all I can say to you right now is to read my trial transcript and see for yourself. I had five supervisors testify on my behalf, and all of them swore that what I did was within the Use of Force Policy. Yet he made them out to be liars as well. On several occasions Baumann brought up bogus incidents that never happened in front of the Jury. On one occasion, he claimed that I had punched a 14 year old boy on the nose while he was merely sitting in the processing room. Yet the only evidence he had was a slip of paper from the OIG hotline, stating that the call was made from Mexico anonymously, and the only actual piece of information on it was my name. Nothing else. I had a Motion in Limine which did not allow this information to be considered by the jury, but regardless, AUSA Baumann had already presented it before them. This happened several times throughout the trial and I was falsely made out to look like a rogue agent to the jury and I had no way of disputing these accusations.
At one point, I felt my heart sink and a feeling of despair come over me. During one of the 20 minute recesses of my trial, Brent Alan Gray and I were in the restroom at the same time. I asked him why he was doing this to me and he said that "It's not a matter of IF you're going to prison, it's a matter of how long you're going to prison for. I have a $50,000,000 budget to make sure you're going." When I heard those words, I was terrified to no end.
During sentencing, AUSA Bill Baumann stated that even though my case was a minor assault, I still needed to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. On a Univision interview, Johnny Sutton stated, himself, that he was making an example out of me. In the Official Dept of Justice Press release, Sutton bad mouthed me by saying that what I did was inexcusable and thanked the Mexican Consulate for all his help in locating the illegal alien Miguel Angel Jimenez-Saldaña, and bringing him back to testify. After Jimenez-Saldaña was apprehended in Eagle Pass, he was incarcerated for approximately eight weeks, pending deportation. Jimenez-Saldaña was indeed deported back to Mexico. It was Johnny Sutton who called on Jorge Espejel, the Mexican Consulate in Eagle Pass, Texas to help him locate and bring Jimenez-Saldaña back into the United States. He offered him immunity and health care for his family in exchange for his testimony against me. Like I said before, this information was withheld during trial. Jimenez-Saldaña even testified that he did not want to testify against me, but was pressured by both the Mexican and U.S. Governments to do so.
Bill Bauman made the first closing argument to the Jury. He was allowed 20 minutes to make his argument. Then my lawyer made his argument for 40 minutes. Once he was finished, I was shocked to see Brent Alan Gray take his podium and place it in front of the Jury stand, and begin to make a counter to my attorney's closing argument. He stood there and lied to the Jury by saying that it was amazing how Agent Alegria's story and Jimenez-Saldaña's story were identical, and since their stories matched, that meant that I must be a liar. However, anyone who reads the trial testimony can see that they had completely different stories. As a matter of documented fact, Jimenez-Saldañas testimony and mine were almost identical. During deliberation, the Jury requested the trial transcript of Alegria's testimony, but the request was denied by Judge Justice. He said they would have to base their decision on what they can remember from the previous four days of trial. Ironically, the only time that the prosecution spoke about my indicted offense was on day one.
I remained out on appeal from October 2002 until April 2004. In between that time (2003) I moved to San Antonio, Texas and rented my home in Eagle Pass. I got a job working at a car dealership as a salesman. That summer I decided to attend college, and I qualified for educational benefits from the Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA), under the Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation Program. I was two weeks away from the end of my second semester when on the morning of April 7, 2003 a team of U.S. Marshals came kicking at my door at 0520 hours. They practically took it off the hinges! I opened the door and they came in, pushed my then 72 year old mother on the bed and took me away. It would be 24 months later before I would come back to my home again.
I was placed at the local contract prison in San Antonio called "GEO" Inc. (Formerly known as Wackenhut). I spent almost four months in a 5 foot by 10 foot cell, 23 hours a day. Roaches and abuse from the guards were normal. From there I was handcuffed, chained at the waist and leg ironed then taken aboard Con Air and landed at the Federal transfer center in Oklahoma City for over three weeks. After that I was taken on Con Air again. This time we landed in Tampa, Florida where we were all bused to the Federal Correctional Complex located in Coleman, Florida. As a matter of fact, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) sent me to five different prisons, incuding the U.S. Penetentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, and ultimately I was sent to Yazoo City, Mississippi. It was during the move to FCI Yazoo City that all of my legal papers, trial transcripts and research mysteriously disappeared. I was told that it would follow me along with my property, but when I arrived at my final designated facility, it was not there. My personal property was there waiting for me, but my legal property was not. To this day I haven't been able to get an answer as to where it is.
Having served the Government for many years I experienced many things that scared me. However, being a federal agent in prison is sheer terror. At each of the prisons, I was placed on the compound with the general population. The inmates in these prisons are a different breed. They have ways of finding out who you are and knowing all of the details about your case by the time you arrive. I was threatened constantly to the point that I would stuff my magazines around my waistline underneath my shirt, just in case I got stabbed. It was at FCI Yazoo City Mississppi that I actually made a vest out of newspaper and tape in order to protect myself. Another thing that became a way of life for me inside FCI Yazoo City, is that you needed to take showers in pairs for safety. You would find somone you could trust, and they would shave their face and brush their teeth etc. while you were showering. The gang members from New Orleans were notorious for assaults in the shower. Every morning I would wake up and ask myself if I was really there. I still have a very hard time accepting what happened. It's extremely hard to find a time and place to cry when you're a grown man in prison.
On March 21, 2006 my incarceration was over. Today, I'm just trying to piece my life back together. As strange as it may sound to some, I would jump at the chance to have my job back at the Border Patrol. I was a good agent and I am still a loyal American. No amount of lies from Johnny Sutton and the United States Attorneys office will ever change that.
The recent exposure of the facts of the Compean and Ramos case, and that of Deputy Hernandez, has torn me apart. I know how it feels and it is terrifying. God bless these agents and this deputy. May He be with them and their families every moment of the day.
This is all true to the best of my knowledge. Thank you
Gary M. Brugman
Former Border Patrol Agent
Thanks to Stop The Invasion for posting the video.