Bush Commutes Sentences Of Former Border Patrol Agents

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
President Bush today commuted the sentences of two individuals whose conviction stirred up the illegal immigration debate.

The two individuals, Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos, are former border patrol agents who have spent two years in jail in connection with the shooting of a Mexican drug dealer.

The pair had been given sentences of more than ten years, but should now be released on March 20, 2009. They were sentenced in November 2008 and have been in jail about two years.

As the Associated Press reports, conservatives and some liberals have been up in arms over the convictions, with talk show hosts railing against the prison sentence for two men they believed were just doing their jobs.

A number of lawmakers, including nearly every major elected official in Texas, have pressured Mr. Bush to commute the pair's sentences. Here's a letter (PDF) from members of the Texas Congressional delegation calling on the president to "correct this injustice."

The president concluded that the ten-year sentences were too harsh and that the agents suffered enough for their crimes. However, a person familiar with the president's thinking on the commutations stressed that the commutation did not diminish the seriousness of the crimes.

Mr. Bush believes Ramos and Compean violated their oaths to uphold the law, the individual said.

According to CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller, no more acts of executive clemency are expected from President Bush.

The president has granted 189 pardons and 11 commutations during his time in office, far less than his predecessors.

Below, some background on the case from the AP:
They were convicted of shooting admitted drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete Davila in the buttocks as he fled across the Rio Grande, away from an abandoned van load of marijuana. The border agents argued during their trials that they believed the smuggler was armed and that they shot him in self defense. The prosecutor in the case said there was no evidence linking the smuggler to the van of marijuana. The prosecutor also said the border agents didn't report the shooting and tampered with evidence by picking up several spent shell casings.

The agents were fired after their convictions on several charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon and with serious bodily injury, violation of civil rights and obstruction of justice. All their convictions, except obstruction of justice, were upheld on appeal.

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