Feds Indict Mexican Drug Smuggler Wounded by Jailed Border Agents

An admitted Mexican smuggler faces federal drug charges more than two years after being shot by a pair of U.S. Border Patrol agents who were later convicted in the shooting, authorities said.

Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, who was shot in the buttocks in February 2005 after fleeing from border agents during a smuggling attempt, has been indicted on charges of smuggling marijuana in September and October of that year, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton said Thursday.

Aldrete is to appear Friday in federal court.

He was arrested Thursday at an El Paso border crossing on charges of possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, conspiracy to import a controlled substance and conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

If convicted, Aldrete faces up to 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine.

Agents Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos were convicted last year of shooting Aldrete and lying about it. Both were sentenced to more than a decade in prison.

"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 in Washington. "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, 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 was shot after a struggle with Compean as Aldrete tried to make it back across the border. Compean fired more than a dozen shots while Ramos fired a single shot. 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 agents acknowledged not reporting the incident. They began serving their sentences in January.