Weatherford Democrat

AP Story Section

January 20, 2009

Bush commutes sentences of former U.S. border agents

(Continued)



Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, who called the agents’ convictions a ‘‘grotesque injustice,’’ said he and other lawmakers initially had hoped to have the agents pardoned. ‘‘When it became evident there was resistance at the White House to a pardon, that’s when we shifted gears to ask for a commutation,’’ he said.

Culberson helped gather signatures from 31 of the 34 current members of the Texas congressional delegation and two former delegation members for a letter asking Bush for the commutations. Culberson hand-delivered the letter to the White House last week.

‘‘I was beginning to really be concerned that with literally only hours left in the president’s term, this might not happen,’’ he said. ‘‘With this one decision, President Bush has done more to improve his popularity than any single thing he could do.’’

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, a U.S. attorney who was appointed by Bush in 2001, 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.

White House officials said Bush didn’t pardon the men for their crimes, but commuted their sentences because he believed they were excessive and that they had already suffered the loss of their jobs, freedom and reputations.

Compean, 32, and Ramos, 39, were sentenced to 12 years and 11 years in prison, respectively. They each have served about two years. Under the terms of Bush’s commutation, their prison sentences will expire on March 20, but their three-year terms of supervised release and the fines will remain intact.

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