Lawyers for Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean spoke for 30 minutes yesterday at a hearing regarding whether the two agents should be set free pending their appeal. The session was held before 3 District Judges of the 5th Circuit Court at the 5th Circuit Courthouse in New Orleans, Louisiana. The hope was that the agents can be released by Christmas, but a judgment may not come until early 2008.
Bottom: Jose Compean
The three judges in the case, E. Grady Jolly
, Patrick E. Higginbotham
and Edward C. Prado
, must unanimously agree that the Border Agents should be set free on bond pending appeal. The judges have 60 days to make their ruling.
Attorney Mark Stelmach admitted that drug smuggler, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, "told some lies on the stand". Stelmach is representing US Attorney Johnny Sutton who prosecuted the two agents for their shooting of Aldrete-Davila as he ran back across the border into Mexico after abandoning his drug load.
"It does seem to me like the government overreacted here," said Judge E. Grady Jolly and added that if the agents had reported the incident as required "this prosecution never would have occurred, in all likelihood." He also added that the prosecution of the two agents "got out of hand" as it escalated from charges of not reporting the shooting to more serious charges.
The most outrageous parts of the government's case was the giving of immunity to Aldrete-Davila in order to testify against Ramos and Compean. Second, charging the two agents under a federal law of using a firearm during a crime. The federal law does not stipulate that law enforcement agents responding to a crime and using their firearms in the line of duty are immune from prosecution. The mandatory minimum sentence under that law - 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c) - is 10 years and that is why the lengthy prison sentences for the two agents. At sentencing Compean received twelve years and Ramos received eleven. And finally, the obscuring of Aldrete-Davila's credibility as a witness when the prosecution managed to have the fact that Davila was a known repeat drug smuggler withheld from the jury.
Judge Higginbotham found the last of these to be particularly ridiculous. "[Davila's smuggling past] strikes me as very relevant."
"It defies common sense in the street world, to believe Aldrete-Davila was a poor mule, as he represented at trial, instead of an actual player in the world of the drug cartels." Higginbotham told the prosecution.
US Attorney Johnny Sutton fled from the courthouse after the hearing and didn't give any interviews to the media, but he did put out a written statement (PDF) later.
This case has always been about the rule of law. Some in the media and on the Internet have tried to portray Agents Compean and Ramos as heroes but that narrative is false. The actions of Compean and Ramos in shooting an unarmed, fleeing suspect, destroying evidence, and engaging in a cover-up, are serious crimes.
They were prosecuted to uphold the rule of law. A jury rejected their factual claims of innocence after a two week trial. The case is now before the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which will resolve the disputed legal issues in accordance with the rule of law. I look forward to the decision of the Court of Appeals.
It should be noted that the only one who claimed Aldrete-Davila was unarmed was Aldrete-Davila himself, who now sits in prison after being arrested on November 15, 2007 on drug smuggling charges. Both Border Patrol Agents said that Aldrete-Davila turned as he fled and pointed what looked like a weapon at them.
Aldrete-Davila claimed during the trial that he didn't know anything about drug smuggling or the packaging of drugs, yet the charges he sits in prison for are for a drug smuggling after being given immunity for the Ramos and Compean case, but before the trial started. In other words Aldrete-Davila committed perjury at least once while on the stand. In addition a civil lawsuit that Aldrete-Davila filed for $5 million for the violation of his civil rights had the prerequisite of the two border agents being convicted. Plenty of reason to lie in order to ensure that they were.
The fact that Sutton is still pushing Aldrete-Davila's claims of being unarmed when he has credibility issues shows the extent of incompetence in this case from the prosecutions end.
This report is in from Joe Loya, father-in-law of Border Patrol Agent Ignacio Ramos
Ramos and Compean's attorney was allowed to speak for one half hour, no interruptions
The prosecuting attorney was interrupted "every three minutes" by all three judges. "The attorney could barely complete sentences without the judges firing away at him."
The judges were familiar, in depth, with the case
They grilled the prosecuting attorney relentlessly on the following:
Why did the government allow Davila to lie under oath
Why did the government grant this special immunity
Why did the government prosecute law enforcement officers use of a gun using a law designed for criminals
Why did the government seal information
Apparently, the judges were merciless on the prosecuting attorney
Johnny Sutton DASHED out of the courtroom - avoiding all reporters
Joe Loya said there will be coverage on Lou Dobbs, Fox 11 did interviews, as well as America's Most Wanted
For more on the Judges see these links:
E. Grady Jolly, Patrick E. Higginbotham and Edward C. Prado
The Pirates Cove
Sources: 1; 2; 3