With a firearms law designed for drug kingpins, two former Border Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, were sentenced in 2006 to an extra decade in prison for firing their guns at a Mexican drug smuggler. At a Senate Judiciary hearing this week, senators from both parties decried the use of that provision against law enforcement officers.
The former agents are serving 11- and 12-year terms, while the smuggler remains free, having cut a deal to testify against them. Senators also vented their dismay at West Texas U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, a Bush appointee who has caught unrelenting grief from anti-illegal immigrant activists over his handling of the case. "This really is a case of prosecutorial overreaction," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chaired the hearing. "This was still a drug dealer who was shot fleeing. Shot in the rear end fleeing. He wasn't an innocent person."
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Tex., a 26-year Border Patrol veteran, also joined the effort this week, pressing President Bush to commute the sentences of the two. Reyes said that even though he had supported the agent's conviction, the sentence is too harsh. "This penalty levied on these agents is excessive and ... they deserve the immediate exercise of your executive clemency powers," Senators Feinstein and Cornyn wrote to the President.
Letters to the president have been a blessing for the two affected families, but Bush may not support the requests. "The president has proven with Libby that he can do whatever he wants whenever he wants," said Patty Compean, whose husband is in an Elkton, Ohio, prison. "There's no due process with him. My husband was doing his job. I don't think Libby was."