WASHINGTON – In his final acts of clemency, President Bush on Monday granted early prison releases to two former U.S. Border Patrol agents whose convictions for shooting a Mexican drug dealer fueled the national debate over illegal immigration.
Bush, responding to heavy pressure from Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike, commuted the prison sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. The two guards from El Paso, Texas, each were sentenced to more than 10 years for the shooting, which they tried to cover up. They will be released within two months.
Opposition to their convictions, sentencing and firings has simmered since the shooting occurred in 2005.
Compean and Ramos 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. He remains in a low-security prison in Fort Worth, Texas.
The border agents claimed at 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.