Retired federal judge Paul Cassell regrets imposing a 55-year sentence on Weldon Angelos, who was just 24 when incarcerated for selling pot in 2004. The judge says he was forced to hand down the extensive punishment due to mandatory minimum sentence laws.
Angelos, once an aspiring music producer in Salt Lake City, was busted after selling $1,000 worth of cannabis to an undercover informant in three separate deals. The narc claimed Angelos was carrying a firearm during the sales, which caused the offenses to fall under mandatory minimum laws.
The state stacked the charges against Angelos, meaning each of the three pot deals was treated as a separate violation with its own prison sentence. By law Angelos had to be sentenced to 55 years with no possibility of parole.
Cassell is calling attention to the case to highlight the absurdity of mandatory minimum laws spawned by the war on drugs. “If (Angelos) had been a aircraft hijacker, he would have gotten 24 years in prison… And now I’m supposed to give him a 55-year sentence? I mean, that’s just not right,” Cassell said. “That wasn’t the right thing to do. The system forced me to do it.”
Cassell noted, “Mandatory minimums can be used to send a message, but at some point the message gets lost.”
Angelos is now 35-years-old and will be 78 when his sentence is served in full in 2059.