Looks like the president had to get in one more controversial commutation (not a full pardon) before he officially shuffles off into oblivion (we hope). He’s pardoned two border patrol guards who were convicted for shooting an unarmed Mexican man who was trying to sneak across the border with drugs. Video here, via crooksandliars.com.

border_patrol_07When the two guards, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, were sentenced to 11 and 12 years respectively for the shooting, immigration was a hot button issue and there was a lot of criticism that the sentences were too harsh, since the men were just doing their jobs, and they had thought that the man was armed.

So, is this a nod to the anti-immigrant crowd, part of Bush’s base? After all, ten years just for injuring someone does seem harsh. These things are tough. As with police, anyone who works armed has, in a sense (and only really in one sense cuz why the fuck would you want that job?) my sympathy, because if you do make an honest mistake, it could be a deadly honest mistake, and I wouldn’t want that cloud looming over my head.

Articles like the BBC one, light on details (as most are) paint it as an act of clemency to a case that caused widespread criticism.

But a lot of those articles fail to mention, whereas the NYTimes and the Atlantic do, that the agents tried to cover it up. In the NYT, the prosecutor is quoted as saying they were not “just doing their jobs.”

‘Nothing could be further from the truth,’ the lead prosecutor in the case said in 2007, scoffing at the idea that the defendants were defending themselves. The agents said at trial that they had scuffled with the dealer, Osvaldo Aldrete Davila.

‘These agents shot someone whom they knew to be unarmed and running away,’ said the prosecutor, United States Attorney Johnny Sutton. ‘They destroyed evidence, covered up a crime scene and then filed false reports about what happened. It is shocking that there are people who believe it is O.K. for agents to shoot an unarmed suspect who is running away.’

And the atlantic adds:

The facts of the case are pretty clear, much more clear one might expect. The two agents shot a fleeing Mexican drug smuggler in the butt and tried to cover it up. They did not know, at the time of the shooting, that the smuggler was a drug smuggler; all they knew is that he was a guy driving a van who, when pulled over, tried to run away from them.

Hmmmm, not such a clearcut case of clemency after all it seems.

Also the Atlantic makes the great point that the mandatory minimum sentence for unlawfully discharging a firearm is 10 years. So if there were to be convicted at all, the judge’s hands were tied. How dumb is our judicial system sometimes?