- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 7, 2008

An admitted drug smuggler whom two U.S. Border Patrol agents shot in the buttocks as he fled back to Mexico was sentenced Wednesday to 9 1/2 years in federal prison on drug-related charges.

Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, who pleaded guilty in April on charges of drug smuggling and conspiracy, was at the center of a firestorm of criticism in 2005 after Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean were sentenced to 11 and 12 years in prison, respectively, for the shooting incident.

The sentencing came a little more than a week after a federal appeals court upheld the agents’ lengthy sentences.

“I don’t do this for a living,” Aldrete-Davila told U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone during the sentencing hearing in El Paso, Texas. “I did it again because I had to cover the debt” from the first failed smuggling attempt. He told the court his family had been threatened after he lost the first load, forcing him to bring a second load into the U.S.

“I just don’t believe you were a minor … player,” Judge Cardone said. “You had ample opportunity … and you still decided to engage in [drug smuggling].”

Officials said Aldrete-Davila ditched 743 pounds of marijuana in a van in Texas before the agents shot at him.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and a longtime advocate of a pardon for the agents, described the sentencing as a “perfect opportunity” for President Bush to pardon the agents or commute their sentences.

“The sentencing of Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila offers the president yet another opportunity to do what is right and either pardon or commute the sentences of Agents Ramos and Compean,” he said. “These agents have spent almost two years in federal custody because of Davila´s testimony.

“The fact that Davila continued to run drugs into the United States after receiving immunity from federal prosecutors, in exchange for taking the stand against the agents, calls into question his testimony. His sentencing discredits it altogether,” he said. “Agents Ramos and Compean should be released immediately and returned to their families. They shouldn´t have to serve one more day in custody.”

Mr. Hunter and several other members of Congress recently sent a letter to Mr. Bush requesting that he consider, at the very least, commuting the agents’ sentences to time served. He also introduced a resolution initiating a pardon for the agents. The bill has 104 co-sponsors.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, said Aldrete-Davila’s sentencing “underscores the hypocrisy of U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton´s portrayal of Davila as a one-time offender whose claim of being unarmed should be believed over our border agents.”

“You can´t blame a criminal for committing more crimes after being given a free pass, but you can blame Sutton’s ‘win at all costs’ arrogance and despicable judgment for totally destroying the lives of two heroic border agents for doing their jobs,” he said.

“The fact Sutton’s office knew Davila was a multiple offender prior to the Ramos and Compean trial and moved to keep that information from jury in order to punish the good guys for procedural mistakes, is an absolute disgrace,” he said.

Mr. Sutton’s office released a statement saying Mr. Sutton had made it “clear from the beginning” that he would prosecute Aldrete-Davila “when we had evidence to prove his guilt.”

Thanks to the work of federal agents and prosecutors in his office, Aldrete-Davila “is on his way to federal prison to serve the sentence that he so justly deserved, Mr. Sutton said.

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