Monday, January 19, 2009

Bush Commutes Sentence of Ex-Border Patrol Agents

This was one of the cases on the radar screen, and Bush elected to commute but not pardon two border patrol agents convicted of shooting and killing wounding a fleeing drug smuggler, then trying to cover it up:
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.

A pardon would have been worse -- the men will still have served over two years in prison.

The fact that some people consider these men heroes for shooting an unarmed, fleeing man (even if that man was himself a criminal) is a sign of just far out of control our discourse has gotten on border security and/or the war on drugs. My understanding is that police officers cannot shoot at a fleeing suspect unless it is a case where deadly force would be warranted, and this wasn't it.


PG said...

I'm glad to see they'll still have the felony convictions, because that will prevent them from owning a firearm, which in turn will disable them from any security related employment.

(This is a big issue with regard to domestic violence, incidentally; further complicating the decision about whether to report an abusive spouse is the fact that if the spouse's job requires him to carry a weapon, he won't be able to do it if he has a DV conviction, even if it's a misdemeanor rather than felony.)

The Intellectual Redneck said...

If you shot a drug smuggler in the butt, where I live, you wouldn't get a prison sentence. One of your relatives would take you to a Cracker Barrel for a celebratory meal.
The Intellectual Redneck

Joe said...

It's pretty disgusting watching Fox News today and seeing the fucking jubilation.

Anonymous said...

The agents didn't kill the suspect. They just wounded him. And the government paid for the drug smuggler to come back and testify against the border patrol agents.

Seems to fail the common sense test.

PG said...

Because "common sense" says that law enforcement is supposed to shoot unarmed fleeing suspects in the back, then hide the evidence? I guess I should be glad that standard police procedure isn't embodying such "common sense."