Bush commutes sentence of border guards

It's not a pardon and it won't expunge the record and get their jobs back but the action of President Bush in commuting the sentences of two border guards convicted of shooting a drug runner will please many people:

On his last full day in office, President Bush commuted the controversial sentences of two former Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting a Mexican drug runner in 2005. 

The imprisonment of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean had sparked outcry from critics who said the men were just doing their jobs and were punished too harshly. They had been sentenced to 11- and 12-year sentences, respectively. 

Their sentences will now expire on March 20 of this year. 

Ramos and Compean were sentenced in connection with the shooting of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, who was shot in the buttocks while trying to flee along the Texas border. He admitted smuggling several hundred pounds of marijuana on the day he was shot and pleaded guilty last year to drug charges related to two other smuggling attempts. 

Nearly the entire congressional delegation from Texas and other lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle pleaded with Bush to grant them clemency.

The border agents argued during their trials that they believed Davila was armed and that they shot him in self defense. The prosecutor in the case said there was no evidence linking the smuggler to the van that contained the marijuana. The prosecutor also said the border agents didn't report the shooting and tampered with evidence by picking up several spent shell casings. 

The agents were fired after their convictions on several charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon and with serious bodily injury, violation of civil rights and obstruction of justice. All their convictions, except obstruction of justice, were upheld on appeal.

Granting clemency was about the best that Bush could do under the circumstances. The fact that the drug runner was convicted last year of drug crimes gives the lie to the prosecutor's contention that the man who was shot was innocent. But almost all observers thought the sentences were too harsh given the circumstances and the record of the two men.

Virtually the entire Texas delegation - both Democrats and Republican - pushed for this commutation so it is likely we will hear very little about it from the other side.