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Bush asked to commute border agents’ sentences

- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, and John Cornyn, Texas Republican, who held hearings this week questioning the conviction of two U.S. Border Patrol agents who shot a fleeing drug-smuggling suspect, yesterday asked President Bush to commute the agents' sentences.

Mrs. Feinstein said that the hearing made it "very clear" the sentences "do not match the crime."

Mr. Cornyn said the "drug smuggler, who should be in prison, was given all the breaks, and the Border Patrol agents received none of the breaks."

"This case cries out for a commutation that is fair and just," he said.

The agents, Ignacio Ramos, 37, and Jose Alonso Compean, 28, were sentenced in October to 11- and 12-year prison terms, respectively, on charges of causing serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and a civil rights violation.

The convictions occurred after drug-smuggling suspect Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila was located in Mexico by Homeland Security investigators and returned to the United States under a grant of immunity to testify against the agents.

Officials say Mr. Aldrete-Davila was shot in the buttocks after he led agents on a high-speed chase and abandoned 743 pounds of marijuana in a van near Fabens, Texas. He bolted from the van and fled to Mexico, after fighting with Compean near the border.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the president will read the Feinstein-Cornyn letter "with interest," but he would not talk in advance about any applications, petitions or requests for pardon or commutation.

"That is something that is done on a confidential basis, and people look at it," he said. "I will not confirm or deny that anything has been done, including whether there have been any applications by the parties involved. So it's just inappropriate to get into that."

Asked to compare the agents' sentences, which he said earlier in the day were within federal sentencing guidelines, with the 30-month sentence for former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby — whose prison time was commuted by Mr. Bush — Mr. Snow said there were some questions about Libby's sentence, but he would "leave it to the lawyers."

Mr. Snow also said Libby was ordered to pay a $250,000 fine, which he called "a significant punishment."

Mrs. Feinstein said the sentences for the agents were "significantly higher than for many other serious crimes," and she questioned the use by prosecutors of a law passed by Congress providing for a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence for a crime involving the use of a firearm.

She described the charge as "prosecutorial overreach" and, considering that Ramos and Compean have now served six months in prison, asked Mr. Bush "to review the case closely and commute the sentence."

"It is incomprehensible to me that an illegal-alien drug smuggler was allowed to violate his immunity agreement, perjure himself and be granted a series of unlimited visas to roam free in our country while two Border Patrol agents were given excessive prison sentences," Mr. Cornyn said.

c Stephen Dinan contributed to this article.