Saturday, December 22, 2007


Ramos, Compean pardons? 'No,' 'No,' says Bush rep
Spokesman won't allow questions to be asked

Posted: December 22, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2007

White House spokesman Tony Fratto

The White House apparently is so reluctant to discuss the issue of pardons or commutations for convicted U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean that a spokesman doesn't even want to allow questions about the issue to be finished.

The circumstances arose during a White House press gaggle with spokesman Tony Fratto, when Les Kinsolving, WND's correspondent at the White House, tried to raise the issue of the disparity in the treatment of the Border Patrol agents, compared to that given Scooter Libby, an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted of lying during an investigation into the outing of the identity of a covert U.S. agent.

The agents were convicted and given prison sentences of 11 and 12 years for shooting after a self-confessed drug smuggler fleeing back into Mexico after leaving 750 pounds of marijuana in Texas, while Libby was excused from serving any of his prison sentence through President Bush's intervention.

The White House repeatedly has said there is a pardons request procedure available to the agents, even though Libby apparently did not go through the same process before Bush acted.

"A number of times here, when questions were raised about former U.S. Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean, we were told that there is a process for pardon. And I have a three-part question on this…" Kinsolving began.

"You have to make it quick, because they're calling for me," Fratto said.

"I will. Could you explain to us why the president refuses to commute these men who shot an escaping Mexican drug smuggler…" Kinsolving continued.

"No," interrupted Fratto.

(Story continues below)

"…as the president commuted the prison sentence of his friend, Scooter Libby," Kinsolving asked.

"No," Fratto responded.

"Okay. What is the White House reaction to one of the judges of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which stated the government overreacted, but there's no indication when this three-judge panel will rule on this appeal." Kinsolving said.

"I don't have a reaction on that. We're going to limit it to two, and then Paula, and then…" Fratto said.

"I just have this last…" Kinsolving said.

"It's okay, Paula," Fratto moved on.

Kinsolving said he was going to ask why the president couldn't commute the agents' sentences to allow the two out of solitary in time for Christmas, a move that also has been proposed in a separate letter to the president from members of Congress, as well as a resolution that is building support in the U.S. House.

As WND has reported, a bipartisan coalition has delivered a letter to the White House seeking a commutation for the agents.

Four congressmen – Democrats William Delahunt of Massachusetts and Silvestre Reyes of Texas, and Republicans Dana Rohrabacher of California and Ted Poe of Texas – signed a letter to President Bush asking him to commute the sentences of Ramos and Compean.

The letter represents a direct bipartisan appeal to Bush to act now on behalf of Ramos and Compean, in the hope the two men could be home with their families for Christmas.

Delahunt, Rohrabacher and Poe earlier sponsored House Concurrent Resolution 267 asking the House to petition President Bush to grant clemency in the case. It now has 37 Democrats and several dozen Republicans as sponsors.

The theme of the bipartisan letter and resolution is that the sentences of 11 and 12 years, respectively, imposed on Ramos and Compean are disproportionate to the lesser sentences typically served by more grievous criminals, including those convicted for manslaughter, assault and firearms where the average sentence is less than four years.

Especially troubling to some watching the case of Ramos and Compean is the mandatory minimum 10-year sentence imposed by 18 U.S.C. 924(c) under which Ramos and Compean were convicted.

As WND has reported, 18 U.S.C. 924(c) is a law Congress passed to impose additional penalties on federal felons who carried firearms in the commission of their felony.

Appellate attorneys for Ramos and Compean argued on Dec. 3 before the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that 18 U.S.C. 924(c) was never intended to be applied to law enforcement officers who fired their weapons in the line of duty, even if the officers used misjudgment in the decision to discharge their weapons.

The bipartisan letter makes the same point.

"Mr. President, as of this writing, Ignacio Ramos will have served his punishment for all the crimes for which he was found guilty – except the charge imposing the mandatory minimum," members of Congress said. "Jose Compean will be halfway through his prison term – except for the charge carrying the mandatory minimum."

"These men have already lost their jobs and had their lives ruined, and their families have suffered terribly," the letter said. "No useful purpose is served by their incarceration."

"Mr. President, we respectfully request that you correct this injustice," the letter ended. "We ask that you immediately commute the sentences of Ramos and Compean to time served so that they can spend Christmas at home with their families."

Ramos and Compean were convicted for firing after Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, an admitted drug smuggler, who brought 750 pounds of marijuana across the Mexican border, into Fabens, Texas, on Feb. 17, 2005.

Aldrete-Davila is now arrested and indicted for a "second load," which he allegedly brought into the U.S. in 2006 just prior to the trial for Ramos and Compean.

At that time, Aldrete-Davila was under a grant of immunity to testify at the Ramos-Compean trial and in possession of a border pass card signed by DHS special agent Christopher Sanchez.

Prosecutor Debra Kanof, in the office of U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton in El Paso, successfully convinced Judge Kathleen Cardone to seal all information about Aldrete-Davila's second load from the jury, thus preventing the defense in the Ramos and Compean trial from using this information to impeach the credibility of Aldrete-Davila's testimony under oath on the stand.

The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is expected to announce the three-judge decision in the Ramos and Compean case before the end of February.

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