President George W. Bush commuted the contentious prison terms of two former U.S. Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting a fleeing, unarmed drug smuggler near El Paso and covering up the shooting, the Houston Chronicle reports. The 12-year prison term of Jose Compean and the 11-year sentence of Ignacio Ramos were commuted to time served by Bush yesterday. The agents had served about two years of their sentences and are scheduled to be released March 20. T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing most of the 18,000 border agents, hailed the commjution and noted that the agents' convictions are being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Compean and Ramos were convicted of shooting drug smuggler Osvaldo Adlrete Davila, an illegal immigrant, in the buttocks as he fled toward the Rio Grande in 2005. The agents did not report the shooting to superiors, removed evidence from the scene of the shooting, and submitted false reports about the incident. Maria Jimenez, a Houston immigration activist who has monitored civil rights violations by Border Patrol agents, said cutting the agents' prison time “sends the signal that law enforcement agents will be treated differently.” Supporters of the agents argue that they confronted an experienced drug trafficker who was likely armed; no weapons were found. U.S. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) said Congress must exempt law officers from prosecution under the law that mandates a 10-year sentence for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.