(Editor's note: Fixes quote in 16th paragraph.)
(CNSNews.com) - The allegasd Mexican drug smuggler shot by Border Patrol agents as he tried to dodge arrest in 2005 will appear in federal court in El Paso, Texas, on Friday afternoon.
Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, 27, was arrested Thursday on a drug smuggling offense at a U.S. port of entry. A federal grand jury handed down a sealed indictment on Oct. 17.
Aldrete was granted immunity in 2005 in exchange for testifying against ex-border agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.
The two Border Patrol agents were sentenced to 11 and 12 years, respectively, for shooting Aldrete as he tried to sneak about million dollars' worth of marijuana into the country. He was shot in the buttocks while running toward the Mexican border.
Prosecutors accused the border agents of trying to cover up what happened. U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton of the Western District of Texas told Cybercast News Service that evidence in the trial made it clear the agents did not know Aldrete-Davila had been smuggling drugs at the time they shot at him 15 times. He was hit once.
"They didn't know if he was an American citizen or not. ... It was outrageous behavior, and prosecutors can't look the other way." (See earlier story)
The case caused an uproar, with a number of U.S. lawmakers and other Americans saying the border agents' punishment was excessive and unfair. Some particularly questioned the decision to prosecute the border agents for firing their guns at the drug smuggler, a violation that carries a mandatory ten-year sentence.
Aldrete now faces two counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, one count of conspiracy to import a controlled substance and one count of conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
The alleged offenses happened between June 1, 2005 and Nov. 30, 2005, which is when the government gave Aldrete a pass to enter and exit the country unsupervised, primarily to get medical treatment for his bullet wound.
Aldrete and his co-defendant, Cipriano Ortiz Hernandez, conspired to import and distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana on Sept. 24, 2005, and again on Oct. 22 and 23 that same year, according to the charges. (The second alleged offense happened after Aldrete was granted immunity from prosecution in return for his testimony against the agents.)
Sutton also is prosecuting the Aldrete case. He has been blasted by advocates of the border agents for not bringing charges against Aldrete sooner.
"I have repeatedly said that if we obtained sufficient competent and admissible evidence against Aldrete, we could prosecute him," Sutton said in a statement. "Members of my office have worked closely with agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration for many months to investigate Aldrete's alleged involvement in drug trafficking."
At a Senate hearing this summer on the border agents case, Sutton was non-committal in answering questions about the October drug offense by Aldrete. Some senators pressed Sutton to explain why Aldrete was allowed to enter and leave the country in the run-up to the border agents' trial.
Advocates of the border agents also have complained that the Aldrete's alleged October drug smuggling did not come up at the trial of Ramos and Compean.
"Just as Aldrete's alleged illegal conduct did not excuse the crimes committed by Compean and Ramos, likewise, their crimes will not excuse his," Sutton said on Thursday.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), one of the most ardent congressional defenders of the ex-border agents, said Sutton's "self congratulatory" statement on the arrests was "shameful."
"If Mr. Sutton had arrested and prosecuted Davila the first time instead of choosing to falsely portray this smuggler as a victim, then 100 kilos of narcotics wouldn't have made it onto American streets and Ramos and Compean would not be languishing in solitary confinement in federal prison," Rohrabacher said.
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