Sunday, January 18, 2009

Utah: Request

Weldon Angelos is in the 5th year of his prison sentence. He is scheduled to be released 50 years from now because a three-round sting operation caught him selling a total of eight ounces of marijuana for the grand sum of $350. In each instance, the "buyer" (who was up for conviction on much more serious charges involving drugs and firearms and trying to gain favor with prosecutors) tried to coax Angelos into involvement in more serious crimes. But, each time, Angelos declined the invitations and, eventuality, refused to even talk to the informant.

About a month later, Angelos was cited for carrying a concealed weapon. When the informant reported the incident to law enforcement officials, police reports were then amended to suggest that he (Angelos) had been carrying a weapon during the above-mentioned marijuana sales. And that is when a federal grand jury indicted Weldon on three counts. Before trial, 17 additional counts were added, including a count for handguns found in Weldon's home (his father was a firearms aficionado) and two more counts for handguns found in his girlfriend's home. None of the firearms were illegally obtained. The government then refused to plea bargain.

Judge Paul Cassell (an appointee of George W. Bush) grudgingly sentenced Weldon - a first time offender - to 55 years in prison but strongly recommended an executive commutation of sentence (to no more than 18 years) and called for legislative reform of mandatory minimum sentence laws. Cassell described the sentence as "unjust, cruel and irrational." Thus, in the words of Angelos' clemency application, the case features an intersection of "minor offenses" an "extreme mandatory sentence" and a "remarkably troubling prosecution."

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