Shadow Wolf customs agents with drugs seized at another US border
In case you haven’t heard, for the past year, there’s been a rising hullabaloo about two border agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, who, in 2005, shot an unarmed drug dealer multiple times as he ran across the Texas-Mexico border southeast of El Paso, and then took pains to cover up the shooting, and lied about. (The Houston Chronicle has a good back-story article.)
The men got more than ten years in prison as a consequence—Compean got 12, Ramos, 11—while the drug dealer—whom prosecutors say they were unable to charge, in part because of the bad shooting—was a federal witness and has since recrossed the border several times, possibly bringing another load of marijuana. (Although no one’s been able to prove the latter.)
The case became an anti-immigration flash point, causing enough powerful people to be upset by the sentencing that earlier this week there was a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue.
The truth is, it sounds like the ex-agents did what they were convicted of doing, and then tried to make it go away. And that’s kinda against the law. The reason for the lengthy sentences (which do seem quite excessive) was that the men (obviously) used a gun in the commission of the crime, which ads an automatic ten years. In other words, the judge and the prosecutor couldn’t have given the ex-agents lower sentences if they’d wanted to.
Such are the joys of the world of over-the-top determinate sentencing laws that paired with automatic sentencing “enhancements” that can produced hideously out-sized sentences with no room for mitigating individual circumstances.
By the way, as these were federal guidelines, they were all set by Congress.
California is loaded with such laws and enhancements. Three Strikes….the STEP Act….10-20-Life. These laws have produced ou sentencing horror stories by the bushel full. And most of ‘em are waa-a-ay worse than the ex-agents’ 10 plus years.
So did any of the brave Senators present at the hearing do the courageous thing and call for an overhaul of such obviously problematic federal determinate sentencing laws?
Oh, heck no. First some Republican lawmakers tried to push through some nutso, likely-unconstitutional laws to try to get the agents out of the pinta. Then Wednesday, senate Republicans, joined by California’s own Diane Feinstein, wrote letters pressuring President Bush to commute the agents’ sentences. (Why? Because they’re political symbols in the immigration policy debate, that’s why.)
Of course, Bush is in a tricky bind because if he does yet another commutation it will make him look….how to put it?… a tad hypocritical in continuing to oppose sentencing reform. (Plus he knows and purportedly likes the beleaguered Texas prosecutor.) So far, Bush won’t say what he intends.