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Congress Voices Concerns About Punishment of Border Guards


By Mike Blair

The rash of prosecutions of U.S. Border Patrol agents and local law enforcement by Justice Department attorneys, along with Mexico’s interference in enforcement of U.S. Immigration laws and border security, will be the focus of upcoming congressional hearings in Washington in the next several weeks.

American Free Press has learned from the office of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), ranking Republican on the House International Relations Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, that the subcommittee chairman, Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.), has approved hearings to investigate interference from Mexican officials into border enforcement and irregularities in prosecutions of U.S. Border Patrol officers by U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton for the Western District of Texas.

The subcommittee, according to Rohrabacher spokesperson Tara Stetmayer, will be looking into irregularities in Sutton’s prosecution of Border Patrol agents for supposed violations of their official duties and for his dealings with Mexican consular officials, who have been influencing the prosecutions, much of which has been highlighted in recent issues of American Free Press.

In addition, in its investigation of the border situation, AFP has discovered other targeted prosecutions by Sutton and his subordinates.

They include a massive cover-up involving an out-of control, murderous government informant in a drug trafficking case under investigation by his office. All of this was known by Sutton, who turned a blind eye to the killings.

Sutton, probably the most powerful of all of the country’s U.S. attorneys, has close ties to President George W. Bush, dating back for decades. Sutton oversees 260 employees including 115 assistant U.S. attorneys in a district that is composed of 93,000 square miles and extends along 660 miles of border with Mexico.

Sutton gained considerable power as chairman of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC), which plays a significant role in determining policies and programs of the Department of Justice and in carrying out the national goals set by the president and the attorney general. Sutton also serves on the Border and Immigration Law Enforcement Subcommittee of the AGAC.

As one critic of Sutton aptly noted, “George and Johnny are virtually connected at the hip.”

From 1995 to 2000, when Bush was governor of Texas, Sutton was the criminal justice policy coordinator, advising the governor on all criminal justice issues in the areas of criminal law, prison capacity and management, parole and criminal trial procedures and initiatives.

And just before his appointment as a U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas on Nov. 30, 2001, Sutton was the associate deputy attorney general at the Department of Justice in Washington and was a policy coordinator for the Bush transition team assigned to the Department of Justice.


Most recently, Sutton has made the national news for his prosecution of two U.S. Border Patrol agents. Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean are collectively serving 22 years in federal prison for shooting and wounding a Mexican drug smuggler after catching him sneaking marijuana and cocaine into the United States. Ramos shot the man and wounded him while he was fleeing across the Rio Grande River into Mexico after the agent said he saw
the man aim what appeared to be a gun at him.

Ramos was sent to the federal correctional center in Yazoo City, Miss., where numerous illegal alien criminals are confined. Ramos was put in the general population area of the prison. He was attacked and savagely beaten in early February by inmates, some of whom were reportedly illegal aliens.

Bush has ignored appeals to pardon Ramos and Compean from more than a hundred members of Congress. Sutton used the testimony of the drug smuggler to prosecute the two Border Patrol agents. The drug runner was given immunity and is now suing the Border Patrol for $5 million, claiming they violated his civil rights.

American Free Press has turned up other cases where Border Patrol agents and local law enforcement officials have been charged with crimes while performing their duties protecting the border from illegal aliens and drug traffickers.

Currently Border Patrol Agent David Sipes is trying to get his job back after he was first convicted of using excessive force and causing bodily injury of a “transporter” of illegal aliens. He had struck a man in the head with his flashlight.

Sipes was convicted after a six-day trial. However, the ruling was recently reversed after it was revealed that the prosecution had withheld evidence. According to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, it was also determined that the prosecution had presented evidence “that was not true.”

Rohrabacher and others looking into the prosecutions of Border Patrol agents say they have documentation that Mexican consular officials played a key role in the cases.

Take the case of Edwards County, Texas, Deputy Sheriff Guillermo F. Hernandez, who was found guilty in another Sutton-prosecuted case.

Last December Hernandez was charged with shooting a woman and, according to the indictment, deprived her “of a right protected and secured by the Constitution of the United States.”

What actually happened was that Hernandez had pursued a vehicle that had failed to stop for a stop sign. When the deputy pulled the car over and got out to approach it, he noticed that there were several people hiding inside.

Only the driver could be seen through the window. The rest of the people were hiding on the floor or in the back of the SUV. He immediately suspected the driver was smuggling illegal aliens.

But before he could confront the vehicle, the driver sped away, attempting to run the deputy down in the process. Hernandez drew his pistol and fired four shots at the car, shooting out the rear tire. The vehicle then skidded to a halt, and the occupants got out and ran in all directions.

When Hernandez got to the car, there was one woman left lying on the floor in the rear cargo area. A bullet had grazed her lip. Hernandez’s conviction is currently being appealed as he sits in a city lockup in Del Rio, Texas.

Border Patrol agent Gary Brugman became a target of a Sutton prosecution while working a shift in the area of Eagle Pass, Texas, when 10-12 illegal aliens were spotted crossing through an orchard. They started running when Border Patrol officers approached them. After a brief chase, they were caught and ordered to sit down, but two were just squatting on one knee and were reported to have been making movements in the direction of Brugman.

Brugman kicked the leg of one of the illegal aliens and forced him off balance and to the ground. Six weeks later, Brugman played a key role in the apprehension of four drug smugglers. One of the smugglers reportedly resisted arrest and fought the Border patrolman. Brugman struck him in the face to subdue him.

The man was eventually turned over to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and was convicted on four felony counts. He was sentenced to 57 months in prison. The story does not end there, however. A short time later, Brugman was called into his watch commander’s office and was relieved of his service weapon. He was told he was under investigation. For 14 months, the situation remained in limbo, with Brugman believing he was under investigation for striking the drug smuggler.

It turns out Brugman was indicted for violating the civil rights of and using excessive force against the illegal alien he had forced to the ground earlier.

However, the case of the drug smuggler was not forgotten in Brugman’s trial, as Brugman relates:

“The first thing that Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Bauman did, under the direction of Johnny Sutton, along with Department of Justice Trial Attorney Brent Alan Gray, was ask that the incident involving the narcotics smuggler . . . be introduced as evidence. I objected due to the fact that he was a convicted drug smuggler, whom I had arrested. . . . [I] was the primary reason he was already serving time in the first place.”

The context didn’t matter to the Justice Department lawyers, however. The fact that Brugman had struck the drug smuggler was used to insinuate that he was prone to using excessive force.

During a break in the proceedings, Brugman went to the restroom, where he encountered Justice Attorney Gray. Brugman said he asked Gray, “‘[Why are you] doing this to me?’ And [Gray] said that ‘It’s not a matter of if you’re going to prison, it’s a matter of how long you’re going to prison for. I have a $50 million budget to make sure you’re going.’”

Brugman remained out of jail as his case was being appealed. But on April 7, 2003, a team of U.S. marshals kicked in his door and carted him away, after pushing his 72-year-old mother onto a bed. It would be two years before he would be a free man again.

Brugman, like agent Ramos, spent time in the Yazoo City correctional facility, where, he said, he had to make a vest out of newspaper and tape in order to protect himself.

“Every very morning I would wake up and ask myself if I was really there,” said Brugman. “I still have a hard time accepting what happened. It’s extremely hard to find a time and place to cry when you’re a grown man in prison.”

It is the contention of many congressmen that the prosecution of the Border Patrol agents and the sheriff deputy was conducted in close cooperation with the Mexican consulate, the depth of that cooperation being the object of the upcoming congressional subcommittee hearings.

Rohrabacher is not the only person seeking a congressional
investigation of Sutton’s activities. On Feb. 24, 2004, Sandy Gonzalez, the special agent in charge of the DEA office in El Paso, Texas, wrote a letter to his counterpart at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department (ICE), John Gaudioso, outlining his outrage over what has come to be known as the “House of Death” episode, in which Sutton played a key role.

In 2000, agents from ICE recruited Guillermo Ramirez Peyro, known as “Lalo,” to work as an informant for ICE as part of its investigation into a Mexican drug cartel that operated close to the Texas border. They paid “Lalo” more than $220,000 to work as a spy for them. His cartel bosses ordered him to murder a Mexican lawyer, which he did while wearing a U.S. law enforcement wire.

After the murder, the ICE agents sought permission to continue using “Lalo” as their informant. Permission was granted by high-level Justice Department officials in the Texas office run by Sutton and in Washington.

According to one reliable account, “the information went up the chain of command, eventually reaching Deputy Assistant Attorney General John C. Malcolm. It passed through the office of Johnny Sutton, the U.S. attorney for Western Texas, a close associate of George W. Bush.”

Permission was given to continue with “Lalo,” who over the course of the next six months participated in the murders of 13 different people, including a Mexican living legally in the United States. He was snatched from his home in El Paso, driven across the border to Mexico, and was murdered along with two other people. It turned out that the men who had been kidnapped and murdered, were the wrong people, in a case of mistaken identity. The murders were committed across the border from El Paso in a house in Ciudad Juarez, and the bodies were buried in the yard there.

In his letter to the ICE agent in charge, DEA Agent Gonzalez stated:

 “I am writing to express to you my frustration and outrage at the mishandling of [this] investigation that has resulted in unnecessary loss of life and endangered the lives of special agents of DEA and their immediate families. There is no excuse for the events that culminated on the evening of January 14 . . . and I have no choice but to hold you responsible.”

As a result of the letter, Gonzalez was told that Sutton was “extremely upset.” Gonzalez was then sent a letter by his DEA bosses in Washington, which said that if he quietly retired he would be given a “positive” reference for future employment. If he refused, his superiors would not be so nice.

Gonzalez did resign, and then he initiated a lawsuit as well as a continuing appeal for a congressional investigation into the murders of the innocent people.

These actions taken against the Border Patrol and local police have sent a strong message to U.S. law enforcement, demoralizing those who carry out the law along the border with Mexico.

A spokesman for Rohrabacher described the morale of U.S. officers on the border as “horrible,” indicating that Sutton has put out the word that Border Patrol agents are not to involve themselves in drug enforcement.

Andy Ramierez, who heads the Friends of the Border Patrol, told AFP that the border situation is out of control and that many U.S. officials on the supervisory level are “on the take” from the Mexican drug cartels. No one seems to know how high this corruption goes.

(Issue #13, March 26, 2007)

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Updated March 26, 2007