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Hannity Distorts And Falsifies Border Agent Case To Suit His Agenda

Reported by Ellen - February 18, 2009 -

Misinformer of 2008 Sean Hannity is still showing contempt for the truth and being allowed to get away with it at “fair and balanced” FOX News. On last night's (2/17/09) Hannity show, Hannity completely twisted the facts of the now-famous border agents case in a one-sided pseudo-news report. With video.

Conservative Andrew C. McCarthy, in The National Review, wrote an excellent and detailed article laying out the facts and the legal issues behind the case against the two agents, Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos, convicted in 2006 of shooting an unarmed drug smuggler in the buttocks. Former President Bush commuted the two agents' sentences before leaving office last month and yesterday they were freed. Although Hannity, back when he was working on Hannity & Colmes, has hosted the prosecutor of the case to explain why the agents were prosecuted (because, essentially, they improperly shot a suspect in the back, then tampered with the evidence to cover it up) that side was completely left out of last night's report.

Not only that, the report relied on the statements of Ramos which, at the very least, are in dispute. “All I see is Agent Compean on the ground,” a man, presumably Ramos told the camera. “And the drug smuggler running from him. I gave chase to the drug smuggler. I gave him one command to stop. And that's when he turned and pointed a gun at me. And that's when I fired. He turned around, kept running and he disappeared into the river.”

But the “we report, you decide” network failed to report that, as prosecutor Johnny Sutton wrote in a statement entitled Myth vs. Reality: The Facts of why the Government Prosecuted Agents Compean and Ramos,

There was no credible evidence that the agents were in a life-threatening situation or that Aldrete, the Mexican alien, had a weapon that would justify the use of deadly force. In fact, Border Patrol Agent Juarez, who was at the scene, testified at trial that he did not draw his pistol because he did not believe there was a threat. He also testified that Aldrete did not have a weapon and was almost to Mexico when Agent Compean began firing at him.

In America, law enforcement officers do not get to shoot unarmed suspects who are running away, lie about it to their supervisors and file official reports that are false. That is a crime and prosecutors cannot look the other way.

Furthermore, as McCarthy notes, the suspect was shot in the buttocks. That means that Ramos' on-camera statement to FOX, that he fired while the suspect was pointing a gun at him, could not be true unless the suspect was firing with his back turned.

Not only that, Hannity's report also neglected to mention that the suspect had surrendered. McCarthy writes:

Compean admitted to investigators early on that the smuggler had raised his hands, palms open, in an attempt to surrender. This jibed not only with Aldrete-Davila’s account but with that of another Border Patrol agent. Compean opted not to take surrender, not to place the smuggler under arrest so he could be prosecuted.

On that score, for those over-heatedly analogizing the border to a battlefield, it is worth noting that even under the law of war, quarter must be given when it is sought. Compean, to the contrary, tried to strike Aldrete-Davila with the butt of his shotgun. But it turns out the agent was as hapless as he was malevolent. In the assault, he succeeded only in losing his own balance. The smuggler, naturally, took off again, whereupon Compean unleashed an incompetent fuselage — missing Aldrete-Davila with all fourteen shots.

It was only after the surrender attempt that Ramos opened fire as the unarmed smuggler neared the border.

Hannity moved on from the shooting to distort and trivialize the cover up. “Both Ramos and Compean reported the incident to their superiors but they failed to file a formal report, thinking the drug smuggler had not been wounded,” Hannity said, making it sound like a clerical mix up.

Actually, as McCarthy explains, the agents filed false reports after first tampering with the evidence at the scene - another set of facts Hannity left out.

Once (drug smuggler suspect) Aldrete-Davila was down from Ramos’s shot to the backside, (the agents) decided, for a second time, not to grab him so he could face justice for his crimes. As they well knew, an arrest at that point — after 15 shots at a fleeing, unarmed man who had tried to surrender — would have shone a spotlight on their performance. So instead, they exacerbated the already shameful display. 

Instead of arresting the wounded smuggler, they put their guns away and left him behind. But not before trying to conceal the improper discharge of their firearms. Compean picked up and hid his shell-casings rather than leaving the scene intact for investigators. Both agents filed false reports, failing to record the firing of their weapons though they were well aware of regulations requiring that they do so. Because the “heroes” put covering their tracks ahead of doing their duty, Aldrete-Davila was eventually able to limp off to a waiting car and escape into Mexico.

Reporting on the release of Campean and Ramos, Hannity finished with this flourish of falsehood: “(The release) allowing them to rejoin their families with a sense of vindication for protecting their country.”

While it's possible that Hannity might have a legitimately different view than the jury of the facts of the case, at the very least FOX should have put it in the context of legal evidence that pointed elsewhere. It's not legitimate to offer Hannity's very partisan perspective, overlook information that contradicts that perspective and then pretend to be making an objective presentation. But that's exactly what Hannity and FOX News did with this report.

It would be nice if FOX News' resident media critic Bernard Goldberg would speak up about such a distorted and biased presentation. But don't hold your breath.