Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Nation: Re Weldon Angelos

Over at The Nation, Sasha Abramsky has written a piece on federal executive clemency applicant Weldon Angelos. She describes Angelos as "a young man who had received the improbable sentence of fifty-five years without parole for selling marijuana, ostensibly while carrying a small pistol in an ankle holster." But, she says what "might have been a two-bit state pot case" became "a high-stakes federal case" when Angelos denied carrying a gun and refused to enter a guilty plea. In response, the government piled more indictments onto the original charge (some for which he was eventually acquitted).

Because of mandatory minimum statutes, the presiding judge had no discretion at sentencing. So, he described the sentence that he handed down “unjust, cruel and even irrational.” He then suggested that President Bush pardon Angelos.

Abramsky reports that, today, his clemency application is now supported by "several ex-governors, dozens of ex–federal prosecutors and judges, and four US attorneys general." Read that AGAIN:  "several ex-governors, dozens of ex–federal prosecutors and judges, and four US attorneys general."

The editorial then asks, "So why hasn’t Obama done the right thing?" Abramsky writes:
Could it be that Angelos has just gotten lost in the shuffle? Possibly—but if that’s the reason, there would be evidence that Obama has used his pardon and commutation powers wisely in other cases. Unfortunately, that’s not true ... A president who talks the talk about more sensible, nuanced drug policy, and whose oratory frequently invokes what is best in the American political imagination, has shown himself remarkably reluctant to use one of the most important of presidential prerogatives—the power to right judicial wrongs. 
See full article here.

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