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Rigonomics:

Bush’s last official act was right

January 30, 2009|By JIM RIGHEIMER

Less than 24 hours before the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama, then-President Bush did the right thing by commuting the sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.

Unless you live in a cave, you know them as the two U.S. Border Patrol guards who were convicted in federal court in March of 2006 after they shot (in the buttocks) a fleeing drug dealer who was trying to smuggle nearly 800 pounds of marijuana into the country.

Whether they committed an offense that should be charged as a federal crime or one that should have only been dealt with internally by their employer for not reporting a shooting incident is a fair question for many Americans to ask.

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What is not disputed by most people is that even if Ramos and Compean were guilty of an offense, was it fair to put two law enforcement agents in prison for 11 and 12 years respectively? Keep in mind the average sentence for manslaughter in this country is only three years.

We were reminded after Ramos was severely beaten in prison that a sentence of that length could be a death sentence for two ex-law-enforcement agents.

Federal prosecutors later argued that their hands were tied when it came to how long the sentences were.

Well, you can thank the Federal Mandatory Minimum sentencing laws that most conservatives, myself included, thought were a good idea at the time.

These laws required that an offense with a firearm carried a mandatory 10-year-minimum sentence. No one ever thought it would be used against a law enforcement officer while on duty.

A major player in this whole affair has been none other than our own Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.

Before this case was on anyone’s radar screen, Rohrabacher was beating the drum day and night to get the Justice Department’s attention to drop the criminal charges against the two men.

After both were convicted, he made every attempt possible to get the president to pardon them. His speeches on the House floor are legendary.

Rohrabacher not only gave his own time and personal support for the pardon of both Ramos and Compean, he also gave his director of communications, Tara Setmayer, wide latitude in getting the word out — which put pressure on President Bush for a pardon.

In addition, uncharacteristic of most Congressmen, he also allowed her to champion the cause of keeping them safe in prison. Setmayer visited Ramos several times in prison, including trips to the Arizona Federal penitentiary where he was held.

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