It's not surprising that WorldNetDaily is elated that President Bush commuted the prison sentences of former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean -- after all, it devoted by its own count at least 228 news stories and 51 commentaries to it. It's also not surprising that WND is still whitewashing the facts of the case.
WND has framed the story of Ramos and Compean as one in which the agents were unfairly imprisoned for, as one WND article put it, "shooting and wounding, in the line of duty, a fleeing illegal alien drug smuggler trying to bring almost 800 pounds of marijuana into the U.S." and because "they didn't report the shooting as regulations required." That oversimplifies the case to the point of distortion.
As we've noted, WND has long been reluctant to tell its readers the pertinent facts that the drug smuggler was unarmed and that Ramos and Compean fired 15 rounds at the smuggler, hitting him once. (When WND mentions that the smuggler was indeed shot, they are quick to add that it was "in the buttocks," as if that doesn't qualify as actually shooting someone.) Further, the agents didn't merely fail to "report the shooting as regulations required"; they actively covered it up by disposing of their shell casings. As prosecutor Johnny Sutton told WND's Jerome Corsi in January 2007:
The behavior is egregious. I think once people find out the facts that you have two agents who shot at an unarmed guy running away who they knew was unarmed, and lied, covered up the evidence, threw away the shell casings, and filed false reports – I think most people will say, "Yeah, that's outrageous. That needs to be prosecuted.
As far as WND's suggestions that Ramos and Compean were unfairly convicted, Sutton also told Corsi:
It's really important that the American people understand that the facts that they're hearing on some of these radio programs are just not true. There's so much more to it. Common sense will tell you that Border Patrol agents do not go to prison for doing their jobs; they only go to prison for committing crimes.
And juries, especially in El Paso, are very sympathetic to Border Patrol; they give them the benefit of the doubt time and time again, because they live in that community, they protect that community, and they are heroes in that community. And in every other case where Border Patrol have used their weapons, at least as long as I have been U.S. attorney, the Border Patrol have been cleared for using their weapons.
I'm trying to get that message out to Border Patrol. And I think the rank and file of Border Patrol when they learn the facts of this case, they will understand that this was a big problem and that these agents committed big crimes. That's all we can do and hopefully the truth will get out. And hopefully we'll get a chance to let the American public hear what the jury heard.
Joseph Farah unsurprisingly perpetuates the distortion in a Jan. 20 column asserting that "amos and Compean were actually incarcerated for the 2005 incident in which they fired on a drug smuggler who had brought a load of some 750 pounds of marijuana into Texas." Farah makes no mention of the cover-up, yet insisted: "The continued incarceration of these two men represented nothing less than a human rights abuse – a miscarriage of justice perpetrated at the highest levels of our government in broad daylight."
Newsmax followed in WND's footsteps; a Jan. 19 article by Dave Eberhart similarly framed the case as the agents "shooting and wounding a self -admitted illegal alien drug smuggler" and that they "fail[ed] to report the incident properly" without noting the agents' efforts to cover up the shooting. Eberhart did note, however, that "It is illegal for federal agents to fire upon fleeing felons or suspects." Meanwhile, a Jan. 19 AP article published by Newsmax notes what Eberhart didn't, stating that Ramos and Compean "tampered with evidence by picking up several spent shell casings."
UPDATE: A Jan. 20 CNSNews.com article by Fred Lucas similarly leads off by claiming that Ramos and Compean were imprisoned for "shooting an illegal alien drug smuggler in the buttocks." While Lucas later notes that the smuggler "suffered a shattered urethra from the shooting" and that "the agents shot an unarmed man and did not realize he was carrying drugs at the time they shot him," he does not mention the fact that Ramos and Compean tried to cover up the shooting.