George W Bush, on his last full day as president of the United States, commuted the sentence Monday of two border patrol agents convicted of shooting a suspected drug smuggler along the country's border with Mexico, dpa reported.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers had called for Bush to pardon Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos, both from El Paso, Texas, who were sentenced in November to prison terms of 12 years and 11 years respectively.
Bush rejected the pardon requests, but both will now be freed on March 20, the US Justice Department said. They will still be under probation for three years and have to pay a 2,000-dollar fine.
Compean and Ramos shot and injured an unarmed Mexican suspected of smuggling drugs into the United States. Osvaldo Aldrete Davila was shot in the buttocks as he fled a van carrying 750 pounds of marijuana. Davila was given immunity by prosecutors to testify against the agents.
Both men were convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon and civil rights violations. The two agents argued they thought Davila was armed at the time.
The case became swirled up in the country's long-running debate over how to stem illegal immigration and protect the US border. Some lawmakers, as well as the border patrol agents' union, argued the conviction made other agents hesitant in discharging their duties.