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Bush Commutes Sentences 
of Former U.S. Border Agents
Posted: January 19th, 2009 01:40 PM GMT-05:00

By DEB RIECHMANN
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON -- 

In his final acts of clemency, President George W. Bush on Monday commuted 
the prison sentences of two former U.S. Border Patrol agents whose 
convictions for shooting a Mexican drug dealer ignited fierce debate about 
illegal immigration.

Bush's decision to commute the sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, 
who tried to cover up the shooting, was welcomed by both Republican and 
Democratic members of Congress. They had long argued that the agents were 
merely doing their jobs, defending the American border against criminals. 
They also maintained that the more than 10-year prison sentences the pair 
was given were too harsh.

Rancor over their convictions, sentencing and firings has simmered ever 
since the shooting occurred in 2005.

Ramos and Compean became a rallying point among conservatives and on talk 
shows where their supporters called them heroes. Nearly the entire 
bipartisan congressional delegation from Texas and other lawmakers from both 
sides of the political aisle pleaded with Bush to grant them clemency.

Bush didn't pardon the men for their crimes, but decided instead to commute 
their prison sentences because he believed they were excessive and that they 
had already suffered the loss of their jobs, freedom and reputations, a 
senior administration official said.

The action by the president, who believes the border agents received fair 
trials and that the verdicts were just, does not diminish the seriousness of 
their crimes, the official said.

Compean and Ramos, who have served about two years of their sentences, are 
expected to be released from prison within the next two months.

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.

With the new acts of clemency, Bush has granted a total of 189 pardons and 
11 commutations.