(CN) – On his last full day in office, President George W. Bush commuted the sentences of two former Border Patrol agents who were convicted of shooting a Mexican drug dealer and trying to cover it up.
Bush granted clemency to Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos, former Border Patrol agents from El Paso, who were sentenced to long prison terms for the 2006 shooting of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila.
Compean and Ramos chased Davila as he sped toward the Mexican border, then abandoned his marijuana-loaded van and continued on foot.
The agents continued the chase, firing their weapons several times. They hit Davila once in the butt, but the wound didn’t prevent him from escaping to Mexico.
The agents tried to cover up the shooting by cleaning up the spent shells and failing to report the incident.
But the Border Patrol investigated, and the agents were convicted of several counts of criminal assault, unlawful discharge of firearms, tampering with official proceedings and criminal deprivation of civil rights.
On appeal, Compean and Ramos asserted self-defense, claiming they thought Davila was armed. Prosecutors insisted the agents had no reason to shoot, and that Davila had presented no physical threat.
In July 2008, the 5th Circuit upheld their convictions for everything but obstruction of justice. Ramos received 11 years in prison and Compean received 12.
Administration officials said Bush thought the verdict was just, but the sentences excessive.
He selected Compean and Ramos from the hundreds of defendants who petitioned for midnight clemency. During his two terms in office, Bush has granted 200 pardons and commutations – the fewest of any modern two-term president.