WASHINGTON – A leading Democrat joined the chorus of mostly Republican lawmakers Tuesday in calling for the release of two former border patrol agents convicted of shooting an unarmed drug dealer in the buttocks. Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight, urged the White House to commute the sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, serving 11- and 12-year sentences, respectively, for the 2005 shooting. “I join with others today who have called on President Bush to commute the sentences of these two men,” Delahunt said. “I do hope the president responds swiftly.” While a handful of Democrats – most notably Sen. Dianne Feinstein – have joined the passionate movement to free the imprisoned agents, it remains largely a GOP-fueled cause. But Delahunt’s advocacy, along with a recent agreement in the House to block funding for the agents’ imprisonment, underscores the movement’s growing popularity. The agents were sentenced earlier this year for shooting Osbaldo Aldrete Davila, a Mexican national, as he fled into Mexico after abandoning 743 pounds of marijuana near Fabens, Texas. According to evidence produced at the trial, the agents failed to report shooting the man and then collected shell casings to cover up the incident. Tuesday’s subcommittee hearing was ostensibly convened to explore what influence, if any, the Mexican government tried to exert over the prosecution of the officers. “This is not a hearing to determine guilt or innocence,” Delahunt said. Almost immediately, however, lawmakers combed through allegations of impropriety, misstatements and faulty evidence that many said led to the convictions. “What should have been a reprimand of agents and supervisors for not doing the drudgery of paperwork has been transformed into a debacle,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach. U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, who prosecuted the agents, declined to appear before the committee. Officials with the Department of Homeland Security also snubbed the panel. Lawmakers reacted angrily, noting that Sutton had recently appeared before the U.S. Senate and made numerous media appearances defending the prosecution. [email protected] (202) 662-8731160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!