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.