More bad news for the RWNJ's:
Long prison terms for 2 Border Patrol agents upheld
By ELIZABETH WHITE
Houston Chronicle Houston news, entertainment, search and shopping | chron.com - Houston Chronicle
SAN ANTONIO â€” A federal appeals court refused today to throw out lengthy prison sentences for a pair of jailed U.S. Border Patrol agents convicted two years ago of shooting an unarmed illegal immigrant and lying about it.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld most of the convictions against former agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean.
But the appeals court threw out their convictions for tampering with an official proceeding, even the three-judge panel refused to reverse the convictions that resulted in their lengthy sentences.
Ramos and Compean were convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 11 and 12 years in prison, respectively, for the February 2005 shooting of illegal immigrant and admitted drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete Davila on the Texas border near El Paso. Both men claimed they shot at Davila in self defense.
The 45-page court opinion said that the trial of the two men, who have been in prison since January 2007, was simply a dispute between them and the government over what happened.
"The jury was the fact-finder," the opinion said. "The jury heard all of the evidence. The jury returned the verdict. The jury did not believe the Border Patrol agents. It convicted them. The government's evidence, if believed, is sufficient to uphold the convictions. And that is pretty close to the bottom line on guilt or innocence of these agents."
Ramos and Compean had each raised at least a dozen claims of error at the trial level, where the men were acquitted of attempted murder but convicted of all other charges.
The circuit court said today that "the trial of the case was conducted fairly and without reversible error." It affirmed the men's convictions on five counts each, including counts of discharge of a firearm in commission of a crime of violence, which the court said carries a minimum term of 10 years.
The court sent the case back for resentencing and reversed convictions on five tampering counts because the Border Patrol investigation was not an "official proceeding" based on statute.
"However, this may not be of much moment to Ramos and Compean because we leave the major conviction with the major sentence ... untouched," the court said.
The case sparked outrage. Some members of Congress complained that U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, who oversaw the case, should have focused the prosecution on Aldrete, not the agents.
In July 2007, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and others asked President Bush to commute the agents' sentences.
In April, Aldrete pleaded guilty to federal drug smuggling charges that he smuggled drugs again several months after being shot. Aldrete, who was granted immunity and testified against the agents in 2006, admitted his role in the initial smuggling attempt of about 700 pounds of marijuana.