Drug smuggler shot by pair of Border Agents indicted
EL PASO — An admitted Mexican drug smuggler shot by a pair of U.S. Border Patrol agents later convicted in the shooting has been charged with smuggling marijuana, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton announced Thursday.
Osvaldo Aldrete Davila was arrested Thursday at an international port of entry in El Paso. A sealed indictment was issued in October charging him with possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, conspiracy to import a controlled substance, and conspiracy with intent to distribute a controlled substance. According to the indictment, Aldrete committed the crimes in September and October 2005, several months after he was shot in the buttocks while fleeing from a pair of Border Patrol agents.
The agents, Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos, were convicted last year of shooting Aldrete and lying about it. The agents were each sentenced to more than a decade in prison.
Aldrete is scheduled to appear in federal court in El Paso today.
"For more than a year, critics of the prosecution ... have complained that Aldrete, the fleeing, unarmed drug smuggler they shot, should have been prosecuted for drug smuggling," Sutton said in a written statement. "I have repeatedly said that if we obtain sufficient competent and admissible evidence against Aldrete, we would prosecute him."
Aldrete's shooting and the subsequent arrest and conviction of Ramos and Compean caused a national firestorm among conservative lawmakers and others. Critics of Sutton have repeatedly called the prosecution unjustified and the sentences extreme.
In July, conservative Republicans won initial House support for an effort to cut federal funding to house the former agents in prison.
U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, said Thursday that Aldrete's arrest and indictment should have come sooner.
"It's about time they arrested the drug dealer," Culberson said in a statement issued by his office. "It's long past time for them to release agents Ramos and Compean."
Joe Loya, Ramos' father-in-law, said the indictment was not surprising.
"He is a career criminal who has been smuggling drugs since he was 14," Loya said. "Who I really feel sorry for is his wife and children."
Opponents of the prosecution against Ramos and Compean have previously argued that Sutton's office ignored evidence that Aldrete, who acknowledged smuggling drugs the day he was shot in February, 2005, had smuggled drugs a second time. He was given immunity for the first smuggling attempt to testify against the agents.
According to testimony at the agents' trial, Aldrete encountered Border Patrol agents after crossing illegally into the U.S. from Mexico in a marijuana-loaded van. While fleeing from agents, he crashed the van and tried to run back to Mexico on foot.
Before he could make it back across the Rio Grande, Aldrete struggled with Compean, who later fired more than a dozen shots at the fleeing man. Ramos fired a single shot after finding Compean on the ground, shooting at Aldrete. It was Ramos' bullet that hit Aldrete.
Compean testified at trial that he shot in self-defense and fighting with Aldrete and then seeing what he believed to be a gun in Aldrete's hand. Ramos said he fired in defense of Compean.
Aldrete, who was severely wounded but managed to flee back around the river, denied having a gun and testified that he ran from Compean after the agent tried to hit him with the butt of a shotgun.
Both men acknowledged not reporting the incident. Several other Border Patrol agents at the scene that day who also did not report the shooting were not prosecuted.
The agents began serving their sentences in January.
If convicted of the drug charges, Aldrete faces up to 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine.