Former judge asks Obama to commute Utah rap producer’s sentence for marijuana
SALT LAKE CITY — In a letter to president Obama, a former federal judge is asking for the sentence of a Utah rap producer to be commuted, calling the sentence he imposed “cruel, unjust and irrational.”
Paul Cassell, now a University of Utah law professor, is the one who sentenced Weldon Angelos to 55 years in federal prison for selling marijuana (with a weapons offense tacked on). The case is one of the reasons Cassell resigned from the federal bench, he wrote in the letter.
“In looking back on the case, it was one of the most troubling that I ever faced in my five years on the federal bench,” Cassell wrote.
Under federal minimum mandatory sentencing laws, Cassell said he had no choice but to sentence Angelos to such a lengthy amount of time. In the letter, he objects to “stacking” where offenses are piled on top of each other.
“Angelos’ sentence was hard to defend when it was imposed. Now I am pleased to see that the Justice Department has begun a review of some lengthy federal prison sentences – including sentences like the one Angelos is serving. I know that the Justice Department is prioritizing certain kinds of sentences for a commutation recommendation. It appears to me that Mr. Angelos meets all of the criteria for a commuted sentence,” Cassell wrote.
Angelos’ case has been highlighted as one against minimum mandatory sentencing laws. Angelos was sentenced in 2004 at age 24. Prison records show he will be released in 2051 — when he is 72.
Read Cassell’s letter to President Obama here: