GOP Lawmaker Warns of Impeachment in Border Agent Case
By Kevin Mooney
CNSNews.com Staff Writer
February 08, 2007
(CNSNews.com) - Weeks after accusing President Bush of "shameful" behavior over the imprisonment of two Border Patrol agents who shot an unarmed suspected drug smuggler along the U.S.-Mexico border, a federal lawmaker turned up the heat further Wednesday, suggesting the president should be impeached if the two men are killed in prison.
Speaking after the Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed that agent Ignacio Ramos was assaulted by inmates in his Mississippi prison at the weekend, California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher had a warning for the White House.
"I tell you, Mr. President, if these men -- especially after this assault -- are murdered in prison, or if one of them lose their lives, there's going to be some sort of impeachment talk in Capitol Hill," he said during a press conference in Washington, D.C. (Listen to Audio)
"The president of the United States talks a lot about his Christian charity, and his religious beliefs," Rohrabacher said.
"He now is showing a mean-spirited side to him, an arrogance, in which he will turn his back, even after one of these officers in prison has been brutally assaulted."
When Ramos and colleague Jose Compean began their sentences of 12 and 11 years' imprisonment, respectively, last month, Rohrabacher slammed the president for not pardoning the men, calling it "the worst betrayal of American defenders I have ever seen."
Public outrage over the case has targeted both the administration and U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, who prosecuted the two and offered an immunity deal to the suspected drug smuggler, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, in return for his testimony against the agents.
Sutton notes that the agents not only shot an unarmed man while he was fleeing toward the Mexican border, but also tried to cover up the crime by disposing of their shell casings and not reporting the incident to their supervisor.
After a two-week trial last year, the two were convicted by a jury on 11 out of 12 counts, including assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with serious bodily injury, discharge of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence, willfully violating the illegal immigrant's constitutional rights, lying about the incident and failing to report the truth.
Rohrabacher said he does not believe the agents received a fair trail, and he noted that three of the jurors said afterwards they were inclined to deliver a not guilty verdict but had been told by the jury foreman that the judge wanted them to "go along with majority."
Other Republican lawmakers taking part in Wednesday's press conference included Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), who said, "The president has lost my respect because he will not step forward to do what is right," and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who voiced concern about future implications for the rule of law.
In the absence of a pardon, the lawmakers said the administration should at least consider allowing the agents to go free while their case is heard on appeal.
As a result of additional information that will be brought up during the appeals process, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) said, the agents stood a "good chance" of being acquitted. Nevertheless, Tancredo said he is still holding out for a pardon.
"The president has shown compassion in the past with pardons," Tancredo said. "Over Christmas he pardoned 18 people, five of whom were drug dealers. So the president has shown compassion, just not to people who have enforced the law."
Tancredo said he has been in touch with Ramos' family and has learned that injuries sustained by the imprisoned man on Saturday included bleeding from the ear, "a degree of paralysis" that has developed in the agent's left arm and migraine headaches.
"I think the president is a good man," said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). "I'm optimistic he's going to pardon these guys...we are going to keep working. This is an extreme injustice and these guys have been given the equivalent of a murder sentence."
"Even if you accept every fact exactly as stated by the prosecuting attorney, the verdict handed out was an extreme injustice," he said. "They were given more time than the average convicted murderer."
Hunter also said he wants the administration to open an investigation into the attack on Ramos.
He produced a letter which he had sent on Jan 17 - the day Ramos and Compean began their sentences - to Harley Lappin, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, asking that the two be separated from other prisoners "to ensure their safety."
An assistant to Lappin replied that the two men had been classified under the "Central Inmate Monitoring System" in an effort to afford additional protection.
Nevertheless, Ramos was circulated back into the general prison population after being initially segregated, Hunter claimed.
Since almost 30 percent of federal prisoners are criminal illegal aliens, many of whom are drug dealers, the agents face "substantial danger," he said.
Hunter said Lappin should be removed from his position for "ineptitude."
Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), who was not in attendance, issued a statement saying the government "continues to be on the wrong side of the border war." Poe said lawmakers investigating the case had been "misled" and "stonewalled."
Ramos is serving his sentence at a federal prison in Yazoo City, Miss., while Compean is an inmate at a facility in Elkton, Ohio.