Weldon Angelos

On November 16, 2004, 25-year-old Weldon Angelos was sentenced to 55 years in federal prison for selling several hundred dollars' worth of marijuana to a police informant on three separate occasions. Though Angelos had no criminal record, federal mandatory minimum laws required the draconian sentence because Angelos had a gun strapped to his ankle during the commission of the crimes.

The maximum sentence in Angelos' case was so severe that a group of former judges and prosecutors ' including U.S. attorneys from nine states ' urged U.S. District Judge Paul G. Cassell to rule the federal mandatory minimum law unconstitutional.

Despite this, Cassell issued Angelos the mandatory 55-year sentence for his gun crimes and a symbolic one-day sentence for the drug and other related charges. At sentencing, Cassell called the penalty "unjust, cruel, and even irrational" but explained that he "had no choice" but to issue the sentence required by law. Cassell then urged Angelos to exhaust every legal appeal available to him and ask President Bush for clemency. The judge also noted that the sentence for hijacking an airplane is 25 years; for second-degree murder, 14 years; and for the rape of a child, 11 years.

Nevertheless, Angelos' hopes for mercy within the justice system died on December 4, 2006, when the U.S. Supreme Court let his sentence stand without comment.

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