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November 16, 2004

Judge Cassell laments, but imposes, harsh mandatory sentence

In a remarkable (and remarkably long) opinion, Utah US District Judge Paul Cassell today imposed a 55-year mandatory minimum sentence on Weldon Angelos, a 24-year-old music executive convicted of marijuana dealing a related firearms offenses.  Judge Cassell called the sentence he feld oblidged to impose "unjust, cruel and even irrational," but he ultimately concluded that he "must reject Mr. Angelos' constitutional challenges."

More (a lot more) later if and when I have access to a computer that works.

UPDATE: Limited connectivity means I can only tonight provide a link to the opinion here, as well as links here and here to some of the early press coverage.

November 16, 2004 at 07:01 PM | Permalink


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» Judge Condemns Minimum Mandatory Sentence and Addresses Restitution Issues from ACSBlog: The Blog of the American Constitution Society
Federal Judge Paul Cassell, who has offered some of the most compelling opinions on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines post-Blakely, issued two opinions in two days that may have a profound impact on the Guidelines. On Monday, Cassell reluctantly senten... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 18, 2004 9:08:17 AM


And rapists get out in less than 25 years. Imagine that.

Posted by: Evelyn | Nov 17, 2004 11:27:19 AM

In my opinion, this case is the perfect illustration of two points:
(1) in an adversarial criminal justice system, too much prosecutorial discretion (while never able to be eliminated completely) can lead to grossly unjust outcomes, and
(2) the necessity for the Supreme Court to give some amount of substance (outside of capital sentencing) to the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Posted by: DEJ | Nov 17, 2004 1:54:30 PM

Judge Cassell has been very busy lately. He also issued this opinion US v Visinaiz, 2004 WL 2590763, which gives a lengthy, detailed, thoughtful, and in my opinion incorrect, analysis of the restitution issue vis a vis Blakely.

Brian Kleinhaus Fordham '06

Posted by: Brian Kleinhaus | Nov 17, 2004 2:11:58 PM

If I remember correctly, The Supremes did give some amount of substance to the cruel and unusual punishment ban. I think they decided that CA's 3 strikes law does not offend it, even when the third strike does not rise to the level of a felony (let alone violence). They are waiting for the people to speak in the form of pressuring their legislators to change the statutes. Too bad.

Posted by: Jeannie | Nov 17, 2004 8:13:54 PM

defense atty

Well, the good judge is putting heat on the system. I wonder what the response has been on commutation recommendations. Had he ever done such a thing before?

I do have one bone to pick. The opinion sets up the defendant nicely, then the judge snatches victory from him at the last moment. It is in a way, cruel to the defendant. Of course I am going cobb as much of the language as I can for my future briefs.

Posted by: randall cavanaugh | Nov 17, 2004 9:02:19 PM

Just so everyone is clear this harsh sentence was not imposed because of the sentencing guidelines that are being looked at now by the Supreme Court. The sentence was harsh because of multiple statutory, consecutive minumums (18 U.S.C. 924(c))that were set by Congress when one uses a firearm in connection with a drug trafficking offense.

Posted by: steve | Nov 18, 2004 11:56:20 AM

I am an Oregon Medical Marijuana Program patient. Those who watch TV news are aware that many FDA/AMA approved drugs are proving to be dangerous (surprise). Marijuana is my ONLY medication-- the option to use marijuana has literally been a virtual lifesaver for me. I am a Christian woman and I pray daily that the use of this healing herb becomes more acceptable to our nation.

I'm at your blog, DAB, because I was made aware of Mr.Angelos' situation via an email from the lobby group, Marijuana Policy Project, which I support with my donations, and by writing letters to legislators when I have time.

I'm just a common citizen, trying to understand why some of the injustices in the world happen, and what I might be able to do to correct and prevent these injustices.

My sincere thanks to the more informed readers who have provided me with a lot of grist for the mill... I will continue to educate myself and continue to write to legislators-- and judges-- this Cassell guy sounds pretty interesting. After I think over the various ramifications of his lamentable decision, I'll be writing to him.

Posted by: st* | Dec 29, 2004 6:05:46 PM

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In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB