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.
President Obama: Commutation for Weldon Angelos – 55 years for marijuana
Petition by Lisa Angelos
My brother Weldon Angelos, has already been in a federal penitentiary for 10 years. He faces 45 more years in prison. All because he sold small amounts of marijuana and possessed – only possessed, didn’t use – guns at the same time! Even the judge who sentenced Weldon disagreed with the mandatory sentence of 55 years.
The father of two young boys and a daughter, Weldon had never before been in trouble with the law. He was convicted when he was 24 years old of selling small amounts of marijuana to a federal law enforcement informant three times. The informant testified that a gun was present (never displayed or used) during two of the pot deals.
When police officers presented a warrant for Weldon’s arrest, he consented to a search of his apartment, where officers found some marijuana, a handgun in his briefcase, and two guns in a locked safe.
The conservative federal judge Paul Cassell, appointed by President George W. Bush, sentenced Weldon to one day in prison on the marijuana charges. But, to the judge’s dismay, he had to sentence Weldon to 55 years in prison because Weldon possessed the guns during a drug crime. That sentence was required by a mandatory minimum sentencing statute.
Judge Cassell called the sentence “unjust, cruel, and even irrational.” So too have dozens of former judges, U.S. attorneys, and former U.S. Attorneys General who joined together in challenging Weldon’s outrageous sentence.
Under federal law, an extra five years sentence must be imposed for a first offense of having a gun present during an illegal drug transaction. For each subsequent offense (even just having a gun in a briefcase or a gun locker), an additional sentence of 25 years must be added. The prosecution “stacked” the three gun charges against Weldon, for sentences of 5 years, 25 years, and another 25 years.
Judge Cassell said the 55 year sentence he was forced to impose was grossly disproportionate. He noted that Weldon’s sentence is far longer than sentences imposed “for three aircraft hijackings, three second-degree murders, three racial beatings inflicting life-threatening injuries, three kidnappings, and three rapes.” Also, no state court would impose a sentence anywhere close to 55 years for Weldon’s offenses. As noted by Judge Cassell, in Utah, where the marijuana sales occurred, Weldon would serve about five to seven years.
Judge Cassell called upon the President to commute Weldon’s sentence, but that hasn’t happened yet – and, after ten years, Weldon is still in prison. It breaks my heart. My father fears he will die without ever seeing Weldon from behind bars.
The Constitution provides the President with the power of commutation to reach a humane, merciful, just result. Please help us reach that result by signing and sharing this petition.