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September 18, 2008

NYU Center files amicus in Angelos case

I noted in this recent post the launch of New York University School of Law's Center on the Administration of Criminal Law.  I am pleased to spotlight the active role that the Center is starting to play in important criminal justice litigation.  (As detailed on this page, "the Center's litigation practice concentrates on cases in which exercises of prosecutorial or governmental discretion raise significant substantive legal issues [and works] in partnership with some of the nation’s most prominent law firms as part of the firms’ pro bono commitment.")

I am especially pleased to report that this week the NYU Center has filed an amicus brief in the Angelos mandatory minimum case in which I am involved (background here and here).  Here is how the NYU Center describes the case and the issues its brief takes on:

Whether a prosecutor should charge a defendant with no criminal record in a manner that, upon conviction, requires a 55-year mandatory minimum sentence for twice selling approximately $350 of marijuana while armed to a confidential informant and for possessing a gun in his home on another occasion, in contravention of the Eighth Amendment, separation of powers principles, Department of Justice charging standards and practices, and the expressed opinions of the trial judge and jury.  This brief was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Utah, in partnership with the law firm Jenner & Block.

This potent introductory line of the amicus brief highlights why I remain hopeful that Weldon Angelos will get some relief in this case: "Weldon Angelos was sentenced to 55 years in prison because the prosecutors in his case elected to exercise discretion in an arbitrary, irrational, and ultimately unconstitutional manner."

Related posts on the legal history of the Angelos case:

September 18, 2008 at 03:41 PM | Permalink


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"There are certain vital principles in our free Republican governments, which will
determine and over-rule an apparent and flagrant abuse of legislative power. . . .
An ACT of the Legislature (for I cannot call it a law) contrary to the great first
principles of the social compact, cannot be considered a rightful exercise of
legislative authority." Calder v. Bull, 3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 386, 388 (1798).

Posted by: | Sep 18, 2008 10:14:36 PM

Anyone out there familiar with the Ravenel case? Charles Ravenel, scion of the noted political family and Giuliani campaign chairman in South Carolina, was convicted of possessing about 500 grams of cocaine. Somehow or another, the fact that he admitted to giving cocaine away as opposed to selling it was used to make the distribution end of the case disappear - try that with your own client sometime and see where it gets you.

He got an incredible deal - kind of like Cindy McCain - ended up with a 9 month Federal sentence. The notion that someone of his demographic and personal background did not possess numerous firearms is laughable. It never came up in the charges, though.

I think he got a reasonable deal, assuming one sees a need for cocaine to be illegal at all, which is arguable. What about the rest of us?

Posted by: chip sommer | Sep 19, 2008 11:06:52 AM

If I were a secret millionaire, I'd go into all of the bad neighborhoods and buy up all the crack, and then destroy it, so that there could be no crackheads.

Would that be possession? And if so, how do I get Charles Ravenel's lawyer's number?

Posted by: Priscilla Jayne | Dec 4, 2008 5:00:28 PM

The Ravenel you're thinking of is Tommy Ravenel, son of Arthur Ravenel. They are both Republicans. Charles Ravenel (no relation) is a Democrat who was convicted of some banking-related crimes and was pardoned by Bill Clinton in January 2001.

Posted by: Rob | Jun 5, 2009 2:17:12 AM

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