07:59 AM CDT on Friday, April 18, 2008
By BRENDAN MCKENNA / The Dallas Morning News
WASHINGTON – The man whose testimony helped put two U.S. Border Patrol agents behind bars now faces prison time on federal drug smuggling charges.
Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, a 27-year-old Mexican citizen, admitted in an El Paso federal court Thursday that he tried to bring a large amount of marijuana into the country twice in 2005. He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import drugs, according to the U.S. attorney for western Texas. He'll be sentenced in July.
Mr. Aldrete-Davila was shot in the rear by then-Border Patrol Agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos during a previous attempt to smuggle marijuana into the U.S.
Mr. Ramos and Mr. Compean were subsequently tried and convicted for the shooting and what prosecutors called a cover-up attempt.
The two former agents maintain that they thought Mr. Aldrete-Davila was armed and threatening them. They were each sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.
The plea, which was not the result of any deal with prosecutors, means Mr. Aldrete-Davila faces five to 40 years in prison.
"I have repeatedly said that if we obtained sufficient competent and admissible evidence against Aldrete, we would prosecute him," U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton said in a written statement.
Mr. Aldrete-Davila's guilty plea has nevertheless renewed calls by some in Congress, including Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, for President Bush to pardon the two former agents or at least commute their sentences.
"In my view, this guilty plea opens even more questions than it answers," Mr. Cornyn said in a written statement."[T]here is a problem with our system of justice when a convicted drug smuggler will receive less time behind bars than the federal agents who attempted to apprehend him."
A spokesman for the White House could not be reached for comment Thursday, but Mr. Sutton rejected linking the two cases.
"Just as Aldrete's illegal conduct did not excuse the crimes committed by Compean and Ramos, likewise, their crimes did not excuse his," he said