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June 3, 2016

Weldon Angelos, poster child for need to reform federal mandatory minimums, apparently released after serving 12 years of 55-year sentence

Images (2)Regular readers likely know the name Weldon Angelos and likely recall some of the details of his 55-year mandatory minimum federal sentence based on his convictions for low-level marijuana dealing and firearm possession.  And regular readers likely will also be intrigued and heartened to read this new Washington Post story, headlined "Utah man whose long drug sentence stirred controversy is released," indicating that Weldon was released earlier this week.  Here are the (somewhat mysterious) details:

One federal inmate who was released — but not under Obama’s clemency initiative — is Weldon Angelos, 36, a father of three from Utah who was sentenced in 2004 to a 55-year mandatory minimum prison term in connection with selling marijuana.

The specific circumstances of Angelos’s release are unclear because court records in his case are sealed. But after a long campaign from his supporters, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Angelos was quietly released Tuesday after a federal court granted him an immediate reduction in sentence. He was able to immediately go home to his family without serving three months in a halfway house, as those who receive clemency are required to do. The release allowed Angelos to see the son he left at age 7 graduate from high school Thursday.

Angelos is one of the nation’s most famous nonviolent drug offenders and became a symbol of what advocates said was the severity and unfairness of mandatory sentences. His case was championed by the group Families Against Mandatory Minimums, former FBI director Bill Sessions, conservative billionaire Charles Koch and others. Three years ago, more than 100 former judges and prosecutors, former elected and appointed government officials, and prominent authors, scholars, activists and business leaders signed a letter urging Obama to grant Angelos commutation.

In February, former federal judge Paul G. Cassell, who sentenced Angelos, wrote a letter asking Obama to swiftly grant him clemency. Cassell said that the sentence he was forced to impose was “one of the most troubling that I ever faced in my five years on the federal bench” and that it was one of the chief reasons he stepped down as a judge.

But Obama never granted clemency to Angelos. The granting of mercy instead came from the Salt Lake City prosecutor who charged him in the case, according to his lawyer. “After three and half years of inaction on Weldon’s clemency petition, he is free because of the fair and good action of a prosecutor,” attorney Mark W. Osler said. “He returns to citizenship because of the actions of one individual — just not the individual I was expecting. Weldon’s freedom is a wonderful thing but remains just one bright spot among many continuing tragedies.”

A White House spokeswoman said that the White House cannot respond with details about any individual clemency case. Julie Stewart, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, called the release of Angelos “fantastic news and past due.”

I am inclined to guess, absent hearing any details to the contrary, that the Utah federal prosecutor agreed to what some have come to call a Holloway motion: a motion first engineered by former Judge John Glesson in the case of Francios Holloway (discussed here) by urging prosecutors to move to undo stacked federal gun charges that had resulted in acrazy-long mandatory minimum prison term.

A few of many prior related posts on Angelos and Holloway cases:

June 3, 2016 at 07:56 PM | Permalink


This is great news.

Posted by: George | Jun 3, 2016 8:13:01 PM

Prof. Berman:

All's well that ends well.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Jun 3, 2016 9:12:54 PM

I hope he does well. With re entry time, but 12.5 yrs is a long long time.

Im happy to see there mercy and good in the Ausa arena.

Boys, if you read this, it means the country is being restored, slowly. But hey if your one of them, all involved benefit greatly.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Jun 3, 2016 11:35:08 PM

If it were a "Holloway" motion, ostensibly the PACER docket would reflect that. It doesn't. So he wasn't granted clemency, the law didn't change, so I suppose that leaves only a Rule 35(b) motion. Perhaps I'm missing something.

Posted by: ARD | Jun 4, 2016 9:24:42 PM

Must have been a sealed Rule 35 substantial-assistance motion if there is no entry on PACER. Still, the fact that an unspecified sealed motion was filed should at least appear on PACER. Weird.

Posted by: fed lawyer | Jun 6, 2016 6:16:26 PM

But then the District of Utah does have a history of maintaining secret dockets. See U.S. v. Mendoza, 698 F.3d 1303 (10th Cir. 2012).

Posted by: fed lawyer | Jun 6, 2016 6:28:32 PM

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