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White House spokesman Tony Snow

WASHINGTON – White House press secretary Tony Snow today apologized for any misunderstanding he caused by characterizing as “nonsensical” a question from WND White House correspondent Les Kinsolving about a possible pardon for two Border Patrol agents sentenced to prison for shooting a drug smuggler.

“I wasn’t trying to embarrass anyone,” Snow told Joseph Farah, editor of WND. “It’s just that I am not permitted even to discuss pardons – to comment on them. This is the president’s call alone.”

Snow indicated he has been getting a lot of heat from radio talk-show hosts and angry Americans over his comment.

“I was not judging the merits of a pardon for these agents,” he said. “I was just trying to make the point that I cannot comment on matters concerning pardons.”

Kinsolving asked Snow during a White House press briefing Monday whether Bush would consider using his power of pardon to free the agents.

“That’s an unanswerable question, Les. The president is the person who is responsible for pardons. You can tell the network, which made you ask that question, that it is nonsensical,” Snow said.

The question referenced the terms of 11 years and 12 years handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone in El Paso, Texas, last week. She gave Jose Alonso Compean 12 years in prison and Ignacio Ramos 11 years and one day despite a plea by their attorney for a new trial after three jurors said they were coerced into voting guilty in the case, the Washington Times reported.

As WND has reported, a federal jury convicted Compean, 28, and Ramos, 37, in March after a two-week trial on charges of causing serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and a civil rights violation.

Ramos is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Naval Reserve and a former nominee for Border Patrol Agent of the Year.

On Feb. 17, 2005, Ramos responded to a request for back up from Compean, who noticed a suspicious van near the levee road along the Rio Grande River near the Texas town of Fabens, about 40 miles east of El Paso. A third agent also joined the pursuit.

Fleeing was an illegal alien, Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila of Mexico. Unknown to the growing number of Border Patrol agents converging on Fabens, Aldrete-Davila’s van was carrying 800 pounds of marijuana.

Aldrete-Davila stopped the van on a levee, jumped out and started running toward the river. When he reached the other side of the levee, he was met by Compean who had anticipated the smuggler’s attempt to get back to Mexico.

“We both yelled out for him to stop, but he wouldn’t stop, and he just kept running,” Ramos told California’s Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

“At some point during the time where I’m crossing the canal, I hear shots being fired,” Ramos said. “Later, I see Compean on the ground, but I keep running after the smuggler.”

At that point, Ramos said, Aldrete-Davila turned toward him, pointing what looked like a gun.

“I shot,” Ramos said. “But I didn’t think he was hit, because he kept running into the brush and then disappeared into it. Later, we all watched as he jumped into a van waiting for him. He seemed fine. It didn’t look like he had been hit at all.”

In a move that still confuses Ramos and Compean, the U.S. government filed charges against them after giving full immunity to Aldrete-Davila and paying for his medical treatment at an El Paso hospital.

“This is the greatest miscarriage of justice I have ever seen,” said Andy Ramirez of the nonprofit group Friends of the Border Patrol. “This drug smuggler has fully contributed to the destruction of two brave agents and their families and has sent a very loud message to the other Border Patrol agents: If you confront a smuggler, this is what will happen to you.”


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