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.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE UNANIMOUS RULING
“For the most part, the trial of this case was about credibility, and although the jury could have gone either way, it chose not to believe the defendants’ version of the crucial events of February 17. The trial of the case was conducted fairly and without reversible error.”
CONCERNING EXCLUSION OF EVIDENCE
“The exclusion of evidence relating to the size of the marijuana load and Aldrete-Davila’s alleged involvement in drug-trafficking events of October 2005 did not violate the defendants’ Sixth Amendment rights to present a complete defense nor did it deny them a proper cross-examination of a witness against them.”
CONCERNING Section 924(c) OF THE INDICTMENT
“[The defendants] were denied no right of due process for lack of notice that Section 924(c) could be applied to police officers while performing law enforcement duties. Nor was the Section 924(c) indictment defective. Moreover, the defendants were properly convicted of substantive crimes, not for violating Border Patrol policies. Once the defendants were charged by the government and convicted by the jury under this statute, the district court had no discretion but to impose at least a ten-year sentence. Thus, the sentences in this case reflect the mandatory ten years for violation of Section 924(c), and one year and a day and two years, respectively, for the remaining convictions.”
REACTIONS TO RULING
Good luck Joe! Supreme Court only takes a few cases a year and rarely one where a lower Appeals Court has rendered a unanimous decision.
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas,
“The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans made a “bad decision” in siding with the word of a now-convicted drug smuggler rather than the two Border Patrol agents.”
“I would encourage Ramos and Compean to have their lawyers make a further appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Poe said he plans to introduce legislation immediately to clarify Section 924(c).
“It was never the intent of the Congress to have U.S.C. Section 924(c) apply to law enforcement officers,”
I don’t think any law enforcement officer should be allowed to shoot an unarmed person, lie and coverup the crime and then get away with it because he carries a badge. This is what Poe seems to want to make happen
Once again, the opinions and predictions expressed on Mexicotrucker.com have been validated by outside sources.
The case goes back to the Western District for resentencing on 5 counts which will probably result in “time served” for those counts.Sorry Joe Loya! I would imagine that your attempt to put this in the court of public opinion backfired on you big time. And for the rest, They’ve had their day in Court, now deal with it!
DOWNLOAD THE 5TH CIRCUIT DECISION HERE
35 years in the trucking business and living in Mexico for the past 15 years, make me uniquely qualified to offer my insight and opinion into the Mexican trucking industry and other border issues. A contributor to SiriuxXM Road Dog Channel 106 and to the award winning Lockridge Report, Mexico Trucker Online continues to publish the unvarnished truth about the subjects we cover.