Minor Drug Dealer Gets 55 Years - Judge Urges Appeal and Clemency

Atrocity of the day in Utah today...a 25 year old minor drug dealer was sentenced to 55 years. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Cassell was clearly troubled by the decision, but not enough to take a stand against it:

The judge then urged Mr. Angelos's lawyer, Jerome H. Mooney, not only to appeal his decision but to ask President Bush for clemency once all appeals were exhausted. He also urged Congress to set aside the law that made the sentence mandatory.

Judge Cassell said that sentencing Mr. Angelos to prison until he is 70 years old was "unjust, cruel and even irrational," but that the law that forced him to do so had not proved to be unconstitutional and thus had to stand. The sentence was all the more ironic, he said, because only two hours earlier he had been legally able to impose a sentence of 22 years on a man convicted of aggravated second-degree murder for beating an elderly woman to death with a log. That crime, he argued, was far more serious.

We wrote about the case in September, after a hearing at which Cassell asked both sides:

"Is there a rational basis," he asked, "for giving Mr. Angelos more time than the hijacker, the murderer, the rapist?"

So what was Mr. Angelos' offense?

The sentence against Mr. Angelos, the founder of the rap music label Extravagant Records, stemmed from his conviction on three counts of possession of a firearm while engaged in drug trafficking. The first count carried a mandatory five-year sentence, with each subsequent count calling for 25 years.

According to trial testimony, Mr. Angelos was carrying a pistol in an ankle holster while selling marijuana. He was not accused of brandishing the weapon or threatening anyone with it.

Leave it to the Justice Department to come up with an answer justifying the 55 year sentence:

....Robert Lund, an assistant United States attorney who prosecuted the case, called Mr. Angelos a "purveyor of poison," and said he had been dealing drugs for more than four years before his arrest. Carrying a gun in the commission of such crimes, he said, meant that Mr. Angelos was prepared "to kill other human beings."

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