José Alonso Compeán (born in 1976) is a former United States Border Patrol Agent, convicted of shooting a non-compliant, undocumented drug smuggler on the United States–Mexico border near El Paso, Texas, on February 17, 2005 and "obstructing justice by willfully defacing the crime scene". On 19 January 2009, President Bush commuted the sentences of both Ramos and Compean, effectively ending their prison term on March 20, 2009, and they were released on February 17, 2009.
Compeán was patrolling a section of border with Ramos when they spotted a man crossing the border. They stopped him in a van containing 743 pounds of marijuana, but he ran. Compeán said he thought the suspect had a gun and was going to shoot him so he fired at him first. His shot missed but his partner, hearing gunfire, fired in order to defend Compeán and hit the suspect in the buttocks. They lost sight of the man, but said they saw him on the Mexican side of the border. They did not believe he had been injured so they did not report the incident.
Trial and aftermath
The two officers were arrested after the drug smuggler, Osvaldo Aldrete Dávila, filed a complaint against them. After a two-week jury trial, Compeán was found guilty on 11 counts, including discharging a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, which by itself carries a federally mandated 10-year minimum sentence. Without that charge, both agents involved would have received far shorter sentences. Instead, Compeán was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and his partner, Ignacio Ramos, was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Aldrete Dávila was granted immunity to testify against the two agents and received six border crossing visas to come to the United States and testify.
The arrest, trial, conviction and imprisonment of Compeán and Ramos has created a firestorm of controversy from those opposing illegal immigration. Efforts have been launched in the United States Congress calling on President George W. Bush to pardon the two men. On 2007-12-06 a resolution was introduced in the Congress seeking to commute their sentences.
On November 15, 2007, Aldrete Dávila, the man shot by Ramos, was arrested at a border crossing in El Paso, Texas. A sealed indictment had been issued for his arrest on a variety of drug smuggling charges. According to the indictment, his alleged crimes occurred after he testified for the United States against the agents. If convicted he faces up to 40 years in prison.
Attorneys for Compeán and Ramos argued, that among other factors, Aldrete Dávila was improperly allowed to assert his rights against self-incrimination in the trial.
They charged that in the written immunity deal with prosecutors, he was given immunity against any charges thus removing the possibility of self-incrimination during Compeán's trial.
During oral arguments before the three-judge appeals panel, Judge E. Grady Jolly remarked that "For some reason, this one got out of hand it seems to me ... It does seem to me like the government overreacted here."
Following the hearing, United States Attorney Johnny Sutton released a statement defending his actions in prosecuting Compeán and Ramos. "Some in the media and on the Internet have tried to portray Agents Compean and Ramos as heroes but that narrative is false. The actions of Compean and Ramos in shooting an unarmed, fleeing suspect, destroying evidence, and engaging in a cover-up, are serious crimes."
Disposition (Sentence Commuted)
- Riechmann, Deb. (January 19, 2009). "Bush commutes prison sentences of 2 former US border agents". Associated Press (Startribune.com).
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- Carroll, Susan. "Ex-agents get boost in court". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-12-08.
- Kunzleman, Michael (2007-12-03). "Appeal Heard in Border Agents' Shooting". Washington Post.
- "Mexican Drug Smuggler Shot By Border Agents Indicted on Drug Smuggling Charges". FoxNews.com. 2007-11-16. Retrieved 2007-12-07.
- "Tonight's Facts: Border Drug War". CNN.com. 2007-07-26. Retrieved 2007-12-07.
- Guilot, Louie (2007-12-06). "Resolution introduced to free Ramos, Compeán". elpasotimes.com. Retrieved 2007-12-07. Cite error: Invalid
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- [dead link]
- Guilot, Louie (2007-12-02). "Immunity deal key in Ramos, Compean appeal". elpasotimes.com. Retrieved 2007-12-07.
- "Statement of U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton following today's oral argument before the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in RE: United States of America v. Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean" (PDF). United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas website. December 12, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-08. (PDF file)
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- Transcript of the Sentencing: United States vs Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compeán (PDF file)
- Transcript of the Verdict: US vs Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compeán (PDF file)