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Aldrete Davila, Man Shot By BP Agents, Sentenced To 9 1/2

By ALICIA A. CALDWELL, Associated Press Writer

EL PASO, Texas (AP) – An admitted drug smuggler shot by a pair of former U.S. Border Patrol agents was sentenced to nearly a decade in federal prison Wednesday.

Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, who was shot in the buttocks while fleeing from an abandoned marijuana load in 2005, was sentenced to 9 years in prison for his role in other smuggling efforts months after he was shot.

The sentence was issued a little more than a week after a federal appeals court upheld lengthy sentences for the former agents convicted in the shooting. Their case has drawn national attention, prompting several members of Congress to call on President Bush to commute their sentences or pardon them outright.

Aldrete pleaded guilty in April to two counts of possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, and one count each of conspiracy to import a controlled substance and conspiracy to possess a controlled substance.

Before being sentenced Aldrete, who spoke in Spanish, said he was not a career smuggler and asked for leniency.

“I don’t do this for a living,” Aldrete told U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone. “I did it again because I had to cover the debt” from the first failed smuggling attempt.

Aldrete said his family was threatened, forcing him to again smuggle large loads of marijuana in 2005, while cooperating with the U.S. government in the case against agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean. He was shot in February of that year.

Cardone rejected his apologies, telling Aldrete that he squandered an opportunity to stay clean after being given immunity for the original smuggling effort in exchange for his testimony against Ramos and Compean.

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

Aldrete testified against the agents in their 2006 trial, telling a jury that he was unarmed when he was shot as he ran toward Mexico after a brief scuffle with Compean.

Ramos and Compean, who were convicted of shooting Aldrete and then trying to cover up the incident, argued that they believed Aldrete had a weapon.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld most of the agents’ convictions while tossing out charges that the men tampered with an official proceeding.

The ruling left intact the mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years for the each agent’s convictions on the charge of discharge of a weapon in the commission of a crime of violence.

Relatives of both agents were in the courtroom for Wednesday’s sentencing.

Monica Ramos, Ignacio Ramos’ wife, said the sentence brought some relief, but was hardly justice for her family.

“I’m not going to say this is a victory,” Monica Ramos said, her voice cracking as she fiddled with her husband’s gold wedding band. “I think for the first time our justice system worked.”

In a statement released Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton responded to the sentencing:

“I have been clear from the beginning of this case that my office would prosecute this drug smuggler when we had the evidence to prove his guilt. Thanks to the hard work of the agents of the DEA and DHS-OIG and federal prosecutors in my office, he is on his way to federal prison to serve the sentence that he so justly deserved.”

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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