In April 2000, Border Patrol Agent David Sipe arrested a group of illegal aliens attempting to cross the U.S. border near Penitas, Texas. While arresting Jose Guevara, a Mexican national, Sipe struck him on the back of the head with a flashlight. After Guevara sought medical treatment for the wound, the Border Patrol began an investigation into Sipe’s use of force. Sipe claimed to have struck Guevara because he was struggling and Sipe was afraid Guevara would grab his weapon. Guevara claimed that the force was unprovoked. At trial, in March 2001, Guevara and two other illegal aliens who were with him testified that the force was unprovoked. Another border patrol agent testified that Sipe had used excessive force. Sipe, who had no previous complaints against him, was convicted by a federal jury in March 2001.
While preparing for sentencing, Sipe’s attorney, Jack Lamar Wolfe, discovered that the prosecution had failed to disclose exculpatory evidence. The victim had a criminal history, and he and the other two aliens who testified against Sipe had been living together for months. The prosecution had photographs of the crime scene and notes from an interview with a potential witness who supported Sipe’s character. Though the prosecution had claimed the only benefit the aliens received was permission to stay and work in the U.S., the aliens had actually received additional benefits, including social security cards, witness fees, travel expenses, the use of government telephones, and the ability to travel to and from Mexico. Additionally, Guevara was arrested by the border patrol again before trial, but was released after displaying a card the prosecution had given him. None of this information was provided to the defense. A United States District Court judge granted Sipe a new trial in April 2003 based on the prosecution’s withholding of exculpatory evidence. The U.S. Attorney’s Office appealed, but the order granting a retrial was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in October 2004. In January 2007, Sipe was acquitted by a jury. In June 2007, he was reinstated as a Border Patrol Agent with back pay.
- Stephanie Denzel