Pubdate: Sun, 05 Jun 2016
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2016 The Associated Press


Case Sparked Debate Because of Mandatory 55-Year Sentence.

Salt Lake City (AP) - A Utah music producer who was ordered to 55 
years behind bars for bringing guns to marijuana deals has been set 
free, after 12 years in prison and national outcry over the mandatory 
minimum sentencing laws that forced a federal judge to impose the lengthy term.

Weldon Angelos, 36, was freed Tuesday. He says he kept his release 
quiet for a few days because he wanted to spend time with his three 
teenage children, who were much younger when he was sentenced in 2004 at 24.

"It's amazing," Angelos told KUTV-TV on Friday at his home in Sandy, 
a Salt Lake City suburb. "I just keep hugging them every time I get a chance."

His lawyer says the prosecutor who charged Angelos was eventually 
crucial in getting his release.

Angelos founded Extravagant Records in Utah, producing hip-hop and 
rap music. He had no criminal record before he was convicted of 
selling $350 worth of marijuana to a police informant three times.

Prosecutors said he was a gang member who carried a gun during two of 
those deals, though he was not accused of using or showing a weapon. 
Angelos denied being in a gang and having a firearm, but police found 
several guns while searching his apartment.

He was convicted in federal court of 16 counts of drug trafficking, 
weapons possession and money laundering.

The penalty for possessing firearms during a drug transaction carries 
a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for the first offense and 
25 years for each subsequent deal. The federal system does not have parole.

Former federal Judge Paul Cassell said he was troubled by the 55-year 
sentence he was required to hand down.

"I thought the sentence was cruel, unjust and irrational," Cassell 
told KUTV. "Everybody in the courtroom knew that was too long for 
this particular crime."

Cassell, now a law professor, sent a letter to President Barack Obama 
in February asking him to commute Angelos' sentence.

In the end, it wasn't Obama that granted clemency. Angelos' lawyer, 
Mark W. Osler, told The Washington Post that the move for release 
came from the Salt Lake City prosecutor who charged Angelos in the case.
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