Some U.S. Border Patrol agents told the voiceofsandiego.org in a report Monday that they are still upset about how the new Southern District of California U.S. Attorney handled the prosecution of a 16-year-old convicted of murdering one of their colleagues.
The law enforcement officials told the news website they were unsatisfied with the 40-year sentence Mexican national Christian Daniel Castro-Alvarez received in April for his role in the murder of border agent Robert Rosas. The teenager faced a life sentence in the case handled by Southern District of California U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.
“It’s just demoralizing for our agents,” Shawn Moran, vice president of the the agents’ union, National Border Patrol Council, told voiceofsandiego.org. “We’ve always known we’re at the bottom of the pecking order. We can’t get an assault charge to save our lives when we are assaulted, but we thought if one of us is murdered, that no deals would be cut. You just don’t cut deals with people like this.”
The news website said it isn’t certain why Castro received a 40-year-sentence. Duffy declined to comment on the matter to voiceofsandiego.org in her first interview since becoming U.S. Attorney last month.
But Duffy, a 16-year veteran of the San Diego-based U.S. Attorney’s office, has support from other law enforcement officials, including the acting Border Patrol deputy chief of the San Diego sector.
“U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy is a top-notch prosecutor who is tuned in to border issues,” Rodney Scott, the acting deputy chief, told the news website. “She has been a good friend of the Border Patrol for many years and we look forward to working with her.”
Duffy told voiceofsandiego.org that combating border crime and national security issues are her top priorities. But the prosecutor said she will also focus on efforts to fight financial fraud.
The U.S. Attorney, who is openly gay, said she hopes her tenure as U.S. Attorney will be known for her work and not just her sexual orientation.
“I am honored that people would follow and celebrate the successes of my career, and I take to heart even the possibility that my being open about my orientation may lessen the stigma or apparent limitations even one individual feels,” Duffy told the news website. “It is my sincerest hope, that in the days and months to come, the thing that I become most known and celebrated for is the quality of my leadership and the continued good work of this office.”
Read the full interview here.
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A former senior U.S. Border Patrol agent in Texas plans to ask for a new trial to overturn his conviction on charges that he shot a fleeing Mexican drug smuggler in the buttocks, The Houston Chronicle reported today.
Ignacio Ramos and his former partner, Jose Compean, were sentenced in October 2006 to more than 10 years in prison after convictions on charges stemming from the shooting, which prosecutors said the agents tried to cover up. President George W. Bush commuted their sentences on his last full day in office amid mounting pressure from conservative commentators and even many Democrats, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.
The successful prosecution led by then-Western District of Texas U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton had become a cause célèbre in many conservative circles, with supporters of the two agents arguing they were simply doing their jobs. Prosecutors maintained, however, that Ramos and Compean shot a man and tried to cover it up.
“I know I’m rolling the dice,” Ramos told The Chronicle, noting that prosecutors could bring new charges.
Bush commuted the sentences, rather than pardoning the two agents, and so they remain convicted felons. Ramos told the Houston newspaper, “We don’t go into it blind. We talk about it, and we both know the risks. And it’s hard knowing what the possibility is. But it is important for me to be cleared.”
Sutton defended the prosecution and said it was “about the rule of law,” according to the newspaper.
The former U.S. Attorney said at his farewell news conference in April 2009 that the harsh criticism leveled at him by conservatives for his prosecution of the border agents has made him more aware of the need to get out in front of a story.
“The … case was an amazing tidal wave of misinformation. … I want to be a conservative voice of reason in the media,” Sutton said, according to the Austin American-Statesman. He added that he thought the two agents’ sentences of more than 10 years were “harsh.”
We reported in July that the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Ramos and Compean Justice Act, which would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for law enforcement officials who use their guns in a crime while on duty. They received their sentences because of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) is the bill’s sponsor.