Pot Sale Case Puts Focus on Mandatory Sentences

Pot Sale Case Puts Focus on Mandatory Sentences
Posted by CN Staff on November 14, 2005 at 07:03:23 PT
By Alicia Caldwell, Denver Post Staff Writer
Source: Denver Post 
Colorado -- For a first offense, a Utahn got 55 years in prison. A Circuit Court appeal says that's unconstitutional. Weldon Angelos was a part- time rap producer in Salt Lake City who had a gun when he sold small amounts of marijuana to an informant on two occasions. When police took him down in 2002, they also found guns at his house. For this, the first-time offender got 55 years in prison, far more than he would have gotten if he had been convicted of hijacking a plane, kidnapping or second-degree murder.
On Tuesday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Denver, will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the lengthy prison term, the result of mandatory-minimum sentencing laws that are triggered when a dealer possesses a gun. The Angelos case has drawn national attention in the debate over who is best suited to craft appropriate criminal penalties: legislators who pass mandatory- minimum sentencing laws or the judges who hear the cases. "I think this could be arguably the harshest sentence ever imposed in this sort of situation," said Douglas Berman, an Ohio State University law professor who specializes in sentencing law. "The more that cases like Weldon Angelos' come into the public eye, the more we'll have an understanding that mandatory-minimum sentencing laws are about politics and not sound policy," Berman said. Still, many administration officials, members of Congress and conservative scholars support mandatory minimums as a way to deter crime, ensure sentence uniformity and rein in judges they believe to be lenient. "Mandatory minimums also frequently induce cooperation of the defendant," said David Muhlhausen, a senior policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C. "Basically, they're used as a big stick to get offenders to cooperate with prosecutors." Snipped:Complete Article: Denver Post (CO)Author: Alicia Caldwell, Denver Post Staff Writer Published: Monday, November 14, 2005 Copyright: 2005 The Denver Post Website: openforum Related Articles:Bush's War on Pot Minimums a Smoke Screen
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on November 15, 2005 at 08:08:37 PT
Related Article from KSL Television
Convict Appeals 55-Year Prison Sentence***November 15th, 2005Gene Kennedy reporting A man is convicted of selling drugs with a gun. But some say his punishment makes him the victim. Lisa Angelos/Weldon Angelos' Sister: "It doesn't make any sense. Fifty-five years and one day. Mandatory minimum. It's not fair to the people out there killing people, raping people, people that I'm actually afraid of." Fifty-five years in prison. Basically, the rest of his life in prison for a 25-year-old man who sold marijuana while carrying a gun. Many call the punishment outrageous. Today, the convicted man and his family appeal before the 10th Circuit Court in Denver. Weldon Angelos heard his fate almost a year ago. His family couldn't believe the sentence. Even the judge regretted handing it down, and the people said the system is flawed. Protestors waved signs against what's known as the mandatory minimum. In other words, federal lawmakers have decided, if convicted of certain crimes, the judge must sentence the criminal a minimum number of years behind bars. In this case, 55 years for selling marijuana three times to a police informant while carrying a gun. The judge grundgingly gave the mandatory minimum, calling his own sentence cruel, unjust, and even irrational. It's a tougher penalty than many receive for sexual abuse and manslaughter convictions. Angelos' family and supporters called the decision outrageous. Jim Angelos/Weldon Angelos' Father/November 2004: "He gave him a death sentence. That's exactly what it is, a death sentence. I'm going to fight it." Erik Luna/Uni. of Utah Law Professor/November 2004: "I just hope that someday people back in Washington DC will understand the horrible consequences of mandatory minimums and how they affect people's lives." Robert Lund/Federal Prosecutor/November 2004: "To deter that kind of conduct, congress has acted to impose harsh penalties." Prosecutor Robert Lund called the sentence fair and constitutional. But since then, more than 150 ex-Justice Department officials have filed a brief with the appeals court calling for change. And that's where the case picks up this morning. The 10th Circuit Appeals Court in Denver will hear it at 9 a.m. We'll keep you posted on where it goes from here.Copyright: KSL Television & Radio, Salt Lake City UT
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on November 15, 2005 at 07:15:49 PT
I'm with you. I don't like guns and I don't want anything to do with them. Our little farm is a sanctuary for animals. The deer love it here because we don't allow hunting so they hang around. They graze really close to our house with no fear. I don't believe that guns should be illegal though. Just because I don't like something doesn't mean that I think it should be illegal. I wish the prohibitionist would look at Cannabis laws that way. 
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Comment #5 posted by westnyc on November 15, 2005 at 02:50:03 PT
Me no like guns!
I don't like guns either. I've never owned one. However, sometimes I think of a quote from a Christian Slater movie of the 80's, "I'd rather have a gun and not need it - rather than need a gun and not have it." I had someone trying to break into my secluded apartment at 3a.m. once in poorer days; and, I didn't even have a phone to call for help. Whoever it was knew that I was home. I've never forgotten that; yet, still no gun.Like anything - if guns were made illegal they would be just like every other black-market item. It would go underground and the only people that would have them would be the cops, the army, and the criminals.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on November 14, 2005 at 19:05:41 PT
Action Alert: 55 Year Sentence for Marijuana
1st Offense: 55 Years for Marijuana SaleCome Protest this Horrible Injustice!!
What: Protest of a 55-year mandatory minimum sentence levied against Weldon Angelos 
for the sale of marijuana (see Denver Post story below). When: Tuesday, November 15, 8:10 a.m. to 9 a.m. Where: Byron White U.S. Courthouse, 1823 Stout Street (between 18th and 19th and Champa 
and Stout streets)Tomorrow morning the case of Weldon Angelos will be heard 
at the U.S. Circuit Court in Denver. The case is an appeal of a 55-year mandatory minimum sentence levied against Angelos for selling ounces of marijuana to an 
undercover agent.Clearly this is a case in which the punishment does NOT fit the crime. It also illuminates the irrational nature of our marijuana laws in which scarce taxpayer dollars are used to impose draconian sentences on nonviolent 
offenders. Sensible Colorado will be joined at this event by SAFER, the group responsible for the recent passage of I-100 which legalized Adult possession of an ounce of marijuana in Denver. Please join us in committing a half hour or so to demonstrating against this egregious injustice. This story has already garnered a great deal of national and local attention, and this is a great opportunity to bring this issue to light. Thank you for your time and we hope you will join us in the fight for more humane and effective marijuana laws tomorrow.Please read the full story of Weldon Angelos, the 26 year old from Utah sentenced to 55 years, at: 
Thanks,Brian Vicente, 
Executive Director, Sensible Colorado
720 890 4247, brian -- 
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Comment #3 posted by Richard Zuckerman on November 14, 2005 at 11:19:15 PT:
Drug possession, firearms possession without a permit, masturbating in public...They may be offensive to you, but in terms of cost effectiveness and respect for freedom, we should go not further than to label them "disgusting" without more. It is costing too many lives and tax dollars to punish these people. We are animals, albeit "higher" animals. We have urges. Dr. Andrew Weil says we all have an instinct to reach a higher consciousness, including through the use of drugs. Marijuana use and possession should be protected under the State Constitution. See, e.g., State v. Mallan, 950 P.2d 178, 208-209, 218-219 (Hawaii 1998)(Dissenting opinion by Justice Levinson). Firearms possession is a fundamental right, see, e.g., Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S.  (1968)(Concurring opinion by Justice Black)(Quoting the speeches of the debators whom steered the 14th Amendment thru Congress, which specifically includes the Right to keep and bear arms as intended to include the individual citizen as a fundamental right). Unfortunately, we have a U.S. Supreme Court whom continue to recognize adult Marijuana use in the privacy of our own dwelling as protected under the federal Constitution; whom have refused to spell it out in Black and White whether the U.S. Constitution 2nd Amendment, 9th Amendment, 10th Amendment, and/or 14th Amendment was intended to protect the individual citizen. What we have today are misinterpretations by the lower federal courts, many of them published decisions, and the job of the U.S. Supreme Court is to resolve these conflicts in federal court decisions and to correct important constitutional errors!!! We have a U.S. Supreme Court whom have refused to take a case on jury nullification since the 1895 case of Sparf and Hansen v. United States!!! Perhaps because you people are voting for DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS!!! Don't be surprised when the Council on Foreign Relations accomplishes their plan by the year 2010 to eliminate the International borders between Mexico and the U.S. and Canada and the U.S., which will trash can the U.S. Constitution and all of the State Constitutions, leaving us with the United Nations "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" as our only source of individual freedoms! See, e.g.:;; know it is getting bad because I am rated 100% mentally disabled of a "permanent and total" degree, receive $2,200/month but cannot find a place to stay because that month and a half security + first months rent takes most of the month's income. As a result, I am residing in a homeless shelter with guys coming out of prison with a bad attitude, most of them Black guys! In light of this stigma of "mental illness," last week, I mailed a postal money order in the amount of $12 for "Still crazy after all these years: the enduring defamatory power of mental disorder," by Karen M. Markin, 29 Law and Psychology Review 155-185 Annual, 2005, to Law and Psychology Review, University of Alabama School of Law, Box 870382, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 35487-0382. Afterwards, I found the Web page for University of Alabama School of Law, found their Law and Psychology Review, and e-mailed them about my $12 postal money order and my situation.The New Jersey Supreme Court denied Direct Certification, last week. The Appellate Division appeal will proceed, though. I am awaiting their scheduling of oral argument on the appeal. After the Appellate Division renders their final adjudication on this appeal, I will have an opportunity to ask the New Jersey Supreme Court again for Certification to establish a cause of action for Retaliation under the State Constitution. HAVE ANY OF YOUR STATE COURTS EVER ESTABLISHED A CAUSE OF ACTION FOR RETALIATION FOR VIOLATION OF YOUR STATE CONSTITUTION?The Marijuana laws are used to disarm Americans. Anybody who has visited the United Nations, on 1st Avenue and 45th Street, in New York City, has seen the large statue of the handgun with the end of the barrel tied into a knot, symbolic of their international small arms treaty, to disarm all Americans except police and military. GOVERNMENT SUPREMACY assails us today! sent me an e-mail asking me to contact Congress for this Friday's meeting to support their draft of a Bill which would improve the curriculum of public schools and decentralize educational standards. The public schools do not teach the dark side of government, the platform of 3rd parties such as Libertarian Party and Green Party. THE GRANDFATHER AND GREAT GRANDFATHER OF PRESIDENT BUSH FINANCED 40% OF ADOLPH HITLER'S STEEL AND PROVIDED STANDARD OIL OF NEW JERSEY DURING AN OIL EMBARGO. See: [John Loftus was an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice NAZI HUNTER SECTION, author of THE SECRET WAR AGAINST THE JEWS, and a Jewish Museum Curator in Florida]. One Vietnam era vet told me yesterday that while he was stationed on a ship fellow crew members affiliated with an Intelligence agent gave the enemy [Vietnam] locations where U.S. Marines were landing in exchange for drugs. Haven't you people heard about the drugs in body bags during Vietnam? Has anybody ever read the book entitled THE POLITICS OF HEROIN?, by Agee, who was a C.I.A. Agent before the C.I.A. required confidentiality agreements? The C.I.A. launders over $600 billion per year of drug money thru Wall Street,, while otherwise law abiding Americans are punished for Marijuana, especially nowadays with the D.E.A. bothering every small time pot distributor they can TO JUSTIFY THEIR BUDGET!! U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg recently acknowledged that the U.S. government goes too far in interfering with the States' medical Marijuana laws, but denies he can do anything about it unless there is pending legislation he can vote on. I e-mail replied to him that he can vote to CUT THE BUDGET OF THE D.E.A., C.I.A., and PENTAGON!!! The United States Government is so corrupt we should legalize Marijuana, for the reasons expressed in I should move to Nevada just to vote on the Marijuana legalization ballot issue in 2006!!!! Richard Paul Zuckerman, Box 159, Metuchen, N.J., 08840-0159, richardzuckerman2002 
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Comment #2 posted by whig on November 14, 2005 at 08:32:56 PT
Mandatory minimums
"Mandatory minimums also frequently induce cooperation of the defendant," said David Muhlhausen, a senior policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C. "Basically, they're used as a big stick to get offenders to cooperate with prosecutors."However, this is not a serious argument in favor of mandatory minimums. What mandatory minimums do, then, is cause people to "cop a plea" to something in order to obtain a reduced charge and/or sentence rather than playing the lottery and risk a non-discretionary sentence way out of proportion to the facts and mitigating circumstances.This is not just prosecution, because it relies upon actual injustice, and we cannot look at the ends of "conviction" in marginal cases as justifying the means, especially where such conviction may well have otherwise been undeserved.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on November 14, 2005 at 07:42:11 PT
Guns and Drugs
 We aren't into guns but that is personal with me and I am not against gun ownership. I do wonder how many people get gun charges because of a law about guns and drugs.***From The Article: In the 1970s and 1980s, Congress and many state legislatures passed laws forcing judges to give certain terms to people convicted of specific crimes, mostly drug crimes. Most of the federal mandatory minimums came out of a 1986 bill passed by Congress. The most common penalty was a mandatory five- or 10-year prison term based on the amount of drugs involved in the crime or the presence of a gun, according to a report by Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a nonprofit campaigning to change the laws. 
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