JANUARY 20, 2009
George W. Bush waited till his last day in office to finally commute the sentences of two Border Patrol agents imprisoned for shooting an illegal immigrant drug smuggler, but he still didn’t grant a full pardon.
Announced by the Justice Department this week, Bush’s executive grant of clemency means the agents’ prison sentences—of 11 and 12 years—will expire on March 20 but felony convictions remain on their record. That means the veteran federal agents can’t work as law enforcers and they must still complete a three-year term of supervised release.
The agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Campean, had impeccable work records when they intercepted an illegal immigrant drug smuggler at the Texas-Mexico border in early 2005. The smuggler was trying to transport a van loaded with 743 pounds of U.S.-bound marijuana near El Paso when the agents stopped him.
The admitted drug smuggler, an illegal alien named Osvaldo Davila, tried to flee and one of the agents shot him in the buttocks though he still got away and hid in Mexico. Federal prosecutors actually went to Mexico and offered the drug dealer immunity to testify against the Border Patrol agents who were subsequently convicted on charges of causing serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon and violating the drug smuggler’s civil rights.
Outraged lawmakers from both parties have repeatedly asked Bush to pardon the agents as have thousands of citizens who felt they were wrongly punished for doing their job. Twice in 2007 Bush ignored the pleas while pardoning a variety of serious criminals, including drug dealers, carjackers and a man convicted for receiving illegal kickbacks on defense procurement contracts.
It wasn’t until Monday, Bush’s last day in office, that he finally exercised his executive power in this case which has been called a travesty of justice beyond description by one legislator. In eight years Bush issued 182 pardons and grants of clemency compared to Bill Clinton’s 456, 140 of them in the final hours of his presidency.
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