Weldon Angelos has been in prison for nearly ten years on federal charges of selling about $350 worth of pot and he's got another 45 to go. The heavy sentence comes from the fact that Angelos had guns in the house where he delt the pot, never mind that he never used them, showed them or even mentioned them in the deal.
Think that sounds absurd? So do several prominent politicians, scholars and even an ex-FBI director who are all asking President Barack Obama to set Angelos free.
Angelos, a Utah-based music producer, was sentenced to 55 years in jail in 2004 for selling pot to an informant on several occasions. The informant said that Agnelos had worn a gun in a holster during several of the meet-ups, though that information was never fully substantiated.
Still, he was convicted and given the harsh sentence based on federal mandatory sentencing even though he had no prior convictions of any kind. Angelos also rejected a 15-year plea deal in the case.
Judge Paul Cassell at the time said his hands were tied with the sentencing. He called it "unjust, cruel and irrational" to send Agelos away for so long and even urged then-president George W. Bush to commute the sentence. That never happened.
As it stands, Angelos would be released 38 years from today, November 18, 2051. Parole isn't an option in the federal system.
Angelo's only hope now would have to come from the Executive Office. And that's what a number of activists, including former Utah politicians Norm Bangerter and Jake Garn, social activist Daniel Ellsberg, and blues singer and guitarist Bonnie Rait along with 110 others are hoping to accomplish.
"Mr. Angelos's sentence is not only draconian but also unique, "the petition reads. "No other jurisdiction would have imposed a 55-year sentence for the crimes in this case. Had Mr. Angelos been charged in local state court, for instance, he would have been paroled years ago. Indeed, Mr. Angelos's sentence is longer than the punishment imposed on far more serious federal offenses and offenders. His term of imprisonment exceeds the federal sentence for, among others, an aircraft hijacker, a second-degree murderer, a kidnapper, and a child rapist."
The U.S. Attorney's office in Utah that convicted Angelos, however, is less compassionate. As they stated in 2004 after the conviction: "This sends the message that people who engage in armed drug dealing are going to face very serious consequences."
The letter comes in time for the holiday season, traditionally when modern presidents have pardoned people trapped in the federal system unjustly or for undue amounts of time. The president also pardons a turkey, though, so who knows how seriously he'll take this petition.
The petition was also signed by former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson, former Utah Supreme Court Justice Michael Zimmerman, former FBI Director William S. Sessions, and singer Graham Nash. Read the entire petition online courtesy of the Salt Lake Tribune.
"We are encouraged by this bipartisan show of support," Angelos' sister Lisa said in a press release. "It's certainly a diverse group of influential people, and we hope it makes a difference when President Obama decides who will receive clemency this holiday season."
Lisa Angelos has also set up an online petition at Change.org for her brother. Page down for the full text of the petition.