Backers of jailed border agents appeal to Bush

Monica Ramos and Patty Compean still have hope.

It is the slim hope that President Bush will, in his administration’s final hours, commute the sentences of their husbands.

Ignacio “Nacho” Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, two former Border Patrol agents, were sentenced to 11 and 12 years in prison, respectively, in October 2006 in the nonfatal shooting of a now-convicted Mexican drug smuggler. They have been in federal prison since January 2007.

The convictions of the two men led to an outcry across the nation, and nearly a half-million signatures were collected for a presidential pardon. The notoriety of the case also forced prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in the Western District of Texas to explain publicly why the two men were convicted of violating the civil rights of the fleeing suspect.

“Every day I believe that the president will do the right thing,” Mrs. Ramos told The Washington Times by phone from her home in Texas. “Our three sons have been devastated by this; there is nothing that can replace the time that has been already lost.”

The Bush administration’s treatment of Ramos and Compean - Mr. Bush has resisted previous calls - contrasts sharply with its actions toward the Border Patrol’s leader. Chief David V. Aguilar, whose tenure has been widely criticized on other grounds besides the shooting case, received a $61,200 merit-award bonus.

At the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, a dozen House members held a news conference to urge Mr. Bush to commute the sentences of the agents before he leaves office Tuesday.

“They were not in the commission of a crime; they were in the commission of defending our borders, and they should have been acknowledged for having done that,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican.

The lawmakers - 11 Republicans and Rep. Bill Delahunt, Massachusetts Democrat - also said U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, whose office prosecuted the case, should urge the president to pardon the men.

“It’s justice, it’s humaneness, and it’s something that we would expect from people who are trying to do their job fairly,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican.

The members said that if Mr. Bush takes no action on the case, they will take their appeal to Barack Obama once the Democrat becomes president.

“I will never give up on this,” Mr. Rohrabacher added.

Rep. Ed Royce, California Republican, said he had spoken with Mr. Bush recently “to urge him” to commute the sentences, and that Mr. Bush said he would look into it.

At his final press conference Monday, the president declined to discuss any plans for pardons or commutations.

“We don’t discuss pardons or commutations or where those may be in the process,” White House deputy press secretary Scott Stanzel said.

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