Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)
As a former prosecutor and judge for 30 years, I have spent my career putting people behind bars – and keeping them there. It is not very often that I am fighting to get someone out, but in the case of former border agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, it was the right thing to do.
On his last full day in office, President Bush commuted the sentences of Ramos and Compean to time served and they will be released in March. I would have preferred a full pardon, but President Bush obviously agreed that the excessive sentences for these two agents were unjustified. The most important thing is they are going to be reunited with their families and have the chance to rebuild their lives. However, this is not the end.
Our successful attempt to appeal to President Bush for a commutation was based on the ten-year mandatory gun charge that was wrongfully applied in this case by the judge at the urging of the prosecutor. This law was created to deter criminals from using a weapon in the violation of a crime; and was not intended to apply to peace officers, they are required to carry a gun to keep their job. Most importantly, agents Ramos and Compean were not the criminals that day. Never before, or since, has this law been applied to a peace officer. As a result, I am filing legislation to clarify this law so that it is clear that it does not apply to law enforcement officers on duty.
Based on my legal background, I sent several letters to President Bush and appealed directly to the White House Counsel to consider the misapplication of the gun charge in this case and magnitude of the time received in relation to the crime. Ironically, on the last day that Congress was in session during the Bush administration, I was the last member of Congress to speak on the House floor. As I was appealing to the President one last time that night to exercise his power to pardon or commute the sentences of Ramos and Compean, my colleague Congressman John Culberson was personally delivering our last written appeal for a commutation signed by 29 of 32 Members and both Senators of the Texas delegation to the White House.
This particular case raised the public awareness to the seriousness of the problems along our southern border and our government’s reluctance to secure our country. This case is riddled with wrong doings and bizarre twists and turns, but on the part of our government rather than the accused. In a meeting with the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s Office, representatives for the government knowingly lied to me and three other members of Congress as to the evidence they had in the case. When their superiors were questioned in Congressional hearings about this so-called evidence, they confirmed that we had been “misled” by the Inspector General’s office. Despite our request, no action was taken against the department on the individuals for lying.
During the trial, the US Attorney’s office was aware that their star witness “told some lies” on the stand (the U.S. Attorney admited this before Congress). In addition, they successfully fought to withhold information given to them by the DEA about their witness, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila’s, immunity violation and evidence of smuggling a second load of drugs with his US issued border pass. This information was withheld from the jury as were the details of the immunity agreement. As a former judge, I know that when you make deals with criminals you usually get the testimony you pay for. It was necessary for the jury to have this knowledge because the case was built on the credibility of Aldrete-Davila’s word.
It is also important to note that the US Attorney’s office publicly and repeatedly denied the second drug load until I received a copy of the DEA report and they were forced to admit to it. The drug dealer was later prosecuted for this crime and sentenced to less time in prison than Ramos and Compean.
This case has been the subject of national talk radio and cable news for the past two years. It is a unique case that has had the support of both sides of the political aisle and a unified call from lawmakers for presidential action. In our society today, the public’s attention span is short, but this story never died. People in Texas still send me correspondence about this injustice and because of the continued public and media support, and compassion of President Bush, Ramos and Compean are counting the days until they are free men.
There is still more work to be done. We must continue to fight to secure our borders and rebuild confidence in our government for those that are sworn to defend our borders and uphold our laws. Now is more important than ever. The violence on the southern border and threat from the drug cartels is at a breaking point. Our border defenders need to know that their government is behind them. As I said before, this is not over.
And that’s just the way it is.