WASHINGTON — On the final full day of his presidency, George W. Bush on Monday commuted the prison sentences of two former U.S. Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting a Mexican drug dealer.
Bush's decision to commute the sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, who tried to cover up the shooting, was welcomed by member of Congress from both parties. They had argued the two imprisoned agents received overly harsh sentences and were victims of prosecutorial overreach.
Ramos and Compean were sentenced to 11 and 12 years in prison respectively after they were convicted on more than a half-dozen charges in the shooting of Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila on Feb. 17, 2005. Aldrete-Davila was shot in the buttocks as he fled from the agents after abandoning a van loaded with marijuana. He escaped across the border but later re-emerged as the key witness against the two agents.
The prosecutor in the case, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton of San Antonio, Texas, was hauled before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2007 to defend his handling of the case.
Sutton repeated his assertions that the two agents shot an unarmed man and then tried to cover up the evidence — a position Sutton said was upheld by a jury in El Paso, Texas. Ramos and Compean acknowledged firing at the fugitive but said they thought he had a gun.
But the case became a rallying point on conservatives radio talk shows and on CNN. 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.