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Bush commutes sentences of former border patrol agents in last act of clemency

[JURIST] In one of his final acts as President of the United States, George W. Bush on Monday commuted the sentences [DOJ press release] of two former border patrol agents convicted of the shooting of a Mexican drug smuggler. The two former agents, Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos [advocacy website], are expected to be released from prison in March. In this final act of clemency, Bush did not pardon the men but reduced their sentences, finding that even though they had received fair trials, their 10-year sentences were excessive. In 2006, Compean and Ramos were convicted on charges of assault, discharge of a weapon in the commission of a crime of violence, tampering with an official proceeding, and deprivation of civil rights. In 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] upheld [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] their convictions. The controversial decision received national attention after members of Congress called upon Bush to pardon the men. Many local residents fear that the prosecution of border patrol agents limits their ability to do their job properly.

During Bush's two terms, he has granted 189 pardons and 11 commutations of sentence. In December, Bush issued presidential pardons to 19 people convicted of crimes ranging from drug trafficking to forging US Treasury checks. Monday's final commutations leave many well-known felons who had reportedly sought pardons [JURIST report] disappointed, including junk bond dealer Michael Milken [Forbes profile], former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham [JURIST report], former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards [official profile], former Cheney chief of staff I. "Scooter" Libby [JURIST news archive], and Canadian-born financier Conrad Black [JURIST news archive].

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