Pubdate: Sat, 04 Jun 2016
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2016 The Washington Post Company
Authors: Greg Jaffe and Sari Horwitz


President Obama granted clemency to 42 inmates Friday as part of an 
ongoing effort to release federal prisoners who are serving prison 
terms resulting from sentencing laws that the White House said were 
"outdated and unduly harsh."

To date, Obama has commuted the sentences of 348 federal inmates. The 
White House said in a statement that the president will continue 
commuting the sentences of inmates through his seven remaining months 
in office.

Half of the inmates on Friday's list had been sentenced to life for 
nonviolent drug offenses, according to the White House.

Obama has granted more commutations than the previous seven 
presidents combined, according to White House officials.

"Despite these important efforts, only legislation can bring about 
lasting change to the federal system," wrote Neil Eggleston, the 
White House counsel. "There remain thousands of men and women in 
federal prison serving sentences longer than necessary, often due to 
overly harsh mandatory minimum sentences."

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 3-1/2 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 administration 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."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom