President Bush commuted the prison sentences of former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean today.
The announcement came on the last full day of Bush’s presidency. The sentences for Ramos and Compean are scheduled to expire March 20 but there was no immediate explanation for the time period between today’s announcement and that date.
Two years ago, Ramos and Compean began serving sentences of 11- and 12- years respectively for a 2005 incident in which they fired on a drug smuggler as he fled back into Mexico after bringing 750 pounds of marijuana into the U.S. near Fabens, Texas. As WND reported last week, the Department of Justice’s pardon attorney, Ronald Rogers, opened a file on the case and was considering recommending that the president commute the sentences.
Rogers said at the time the former agents apparently were not eligible for a pardon, which would nullify the punishment. But they might be eligible for a commutation, he said, which would result in a reduction of their sentences.
“Thank God for this commutation,” said Joseph Farah, editor of WND, who launched a petition and letter-writing campaign that re-energized the Ramos-Compean issue in the last 30 days of Bush’s term. “This will end the sleepless nights for their wives and children. This is the first step toward making these families whole, again.”
His petition collected more than 40,000 signatures by the time today’s announcement was made, and the letter campaign produced more than 3,000 FedEx letters to the White House.
“We can only thank Joseph Farah, Jerome Corsi and the staff at WorldNetDaily because from the beginning you have been with us and you never gave up on the case,” Joe Loya, Ramos’ father-in-law, said today. “Your reporting had a lot to do with the decision today by President Bush to commute the sentences.”
The petition had described how the agents “are now serving outrageously long prison terms for shooting and wounding, in the line of duty, a fleeing illegal alien drug smuggler trying to bring almost 800 pounds of marijuana into the U.S.”
The smuggler was granted immunity for his illegal activities in return for testifying against the agents. After the trial, it was revealed the smuggler participated in another drug run into the U.S. while he held immunity.
The law under which the agents were ordered to serve minimum 10-year sentences for using a firearm in the commission of a crime never had been applied to law enforcement officers.
Monica Ramos embraces her husband, former U.S. Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos, two days before he was sentenced to 11 years in prison (Courtesy El Paso Times
Farah’s letter also noted several jurors complained they had been intimidated into voting “guilty” while they actually believed Ramos and Compean were innocent, yet the trial judge refused to set aside the verdict.
Among other factors raising public concern was the prosecutor’s statement that the sentences were too harsh.
The agents had attracted the support of a members of Congress, too. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., recently asked U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, the prosecutor in the case, to support a commutation in their sentences.
“As Johnny Sutton said in his own words, this punishment is excessive,” Rohrabacher said. “Millions of Americans, members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats have spoken.”
“It becomes a debate about punishment,” Sutton said on the CNN Headline News Glenn Beck Program May 18, 2007. “I have a lot of sympathy for those who say, look, punishment is too high, you know, 10 years. I agree.”
More than 150 members of the House of Representatives, including both Democrats and Republicans, have signed onto various resolutions in support of either a full pardon or a commutation of sentence for Ramos and Compean.
On the Senate side, John Cornyn, R-Texas, had released an open letter to the president pleading for their freedom. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also joined the effort.
The burden of the sentences fell heavily on the families of the agents. Ramos wife, Monica, reported just this month that there was an attempted hit on her life and that of her children when someone broke into their El Paso home and filled it with gas, trashing photographs and pummeling their dog.
The attackers, while she was away, stole various items, ripped cherished wedding pictures and family photographs and even left the gas turned on.
“It was very intentional in that somebody was trying to hurt us,” she said on a radio program.
“He’s in there because he was stopping a drug smuggler,” she said. “And yet my kids have to go through an extensive search when we see him. … We’re not able to have any physical contact with him while we’re there.”
In a special letter released to WND before the commutation was announced, Compean thanked his supporters, especially for the cards and letters during his incarceration.
He said he feared being forgotton.
“I truly believed people would forget all about us. Once we reported to prison, I was very happy to see how wrong I was. I have received thousands of letters from people all over the country. I have also received letters from other countries such as Italy and even a few from soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.”