An admitted Mexican drug smuggler shot by a pair of U.S. Border Patrol agents who were convicted in the shooting made his first appearance on marijuana charges Friday in federal court.
Handcuffed and wearing a bulletproof vest, Osvaldo Aldrete Davila was escorted to the federal courthouse Friday by two U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents. He declined to speak with reporters as he walked the short distance from the jail and did not speak in court except to acknowledge that he understood the charges.
Aldrete, who was shot in the buttocks in February 2005 while fleeing from the agents, was arrested Thursday at the El Paso border crossing and is charged with smuggling marijuana into the United States in September and October of that year.
The 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. They have appealed.
Aldrete, who acknowledged smuggling drugs the day he was shot, was given immunity for the first smuggling attempt to testify against the agents.
The convictions of Ramos and Compean caused a national firestorm among conservative lawmakers and others. Critics have repeatedly called the prosecution unjustified and the sentences extreme.
Aldrete was indicted in October 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. The indictment was unsealed Thursday after his arrest. He is being held without bond.
If convicted of the most serious charges, Aldrete faces up to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million. He is to return to court Wednesday for a bond hearing.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Mesa said court records showed Aldrete has hired a lawyer, though none was present during Friday's brief hearing.
Last update: 11/17/2007
(© 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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