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Legal defense fund started for convicted Texas Border Patrol agents

Associated Press Writer

EL PASO, Texas- The union representing U.S. Border Patrol agents has set up a legal defense fund for two agents convicted earlier this year of wounding a suspected drug smuggler and then trying to cover up the shooting.

The National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents nearly all Border Patrol agents, launched the fund this week to help former agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean pay for an appeal and provide some money for their families. The men were suspended without pay after their 2005 arrests and fired after a federal jury convicted them in March.

Union chief T.J. Bonner, a Border Patrol agent, said the fund is a way for fellow agents and other friends of the Border Patrol to show their support for the agents who Bonner believes were wrongly prosecuted. The union contributed $10,000 (euro7,900) in "seed money."

Compean and Ramos, who were both agents in the Fabens area, were accused of shooting admitted drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, a Mexican national, in the buttocks, and then trying to cover it up.

Ramos and Compean were convicted in March of assault with a deadly weapon, obstruction of justice, a civil rights violation and other felonies. They were both acquitted of assault with attempt to commit murder. They are to be sentenced later this year and could face more than 20 years in prison.

Bonner said he hopes authorities will also study how the original investigation was conducted.

Border Patrol officials first learned of the shooting after Davila's mother contacted the mother-in-law of an Arizona-based Border Patrol agent. The Border Patrol's Office of the Inspector General later launched an investigation.

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