By Cheri Sicard
The story of Weldon Angelos perfectly illustrates what can happen with an out-of-control federal system of justice that over zealously focuses on cannabis, often at the expense of actual crimes with real victims.
Despite having no prior convictions, Angelos received a sentence of 55 years and one day for selling a small amount of marijuana on three occasions. He was 23 years old, a young father, and an up and coming music producer and artist when he was first incarcerated. He will be 78 years old before he is eligible for parole.
So how is it possible that someone selling a little bit of weed can get a sentence FAR longer than those recommended for airline hijackers, kidnappers, 2nd degree murderers, and child rapists? By unjust prosecutors playing a life destroying legal game by piling on charges to make sure the defendant gets the maximum amount of prison time possible.
In Weldon’s case, he sold marijuana on 3 different occasions to the same childhood acquaintance, who unbeknown to him was working for the DEA in order to avoid doing prison time himself. The total amount of marijuana sold was under 2 pounds – just 8 ounces per transaction — but the prosecution counted each one as a separate “crime,” and as they say, “Three strikes; you’re out.”
To make matters worse, Angelos owned a firearm. Not an illegal firearm, a legally permitted one. He did not use that firearm in the “crime,” nor did he brandish it or even threaten to use it. The mere fact that he owned a gun added SIGNIFICANT time and severity to his sentence, something all gun owners reading this should take particular note of.
Weldon Angelos’s actual charges were: “Possessing and selling marijuana and selling marijuana while in possession of a firearm.”
Judge Paul Cassell, a conservative Bush-era appointee, was appalled at the sentence federal law mandated he impose on a first time offender of a victimless crime. The charges called for five years on a first offense, 25 years on a second offense, and 25 years on a third offense. Those three sales of marijuana constituted Weldon’s three offenses. Judge Cassell called the punishment “cruel, unusual, and irrational.”
Judge Cassell’s hands were tied at sentencing. He immediately called upon the President to grant commutation and called on Congress to stop the insanity. The President and the Congress did nothing.
Since his incarceration, Weldon Angelos has become the poster child for an out of control legal system. Senators Patrick Leahy and Rand Paul spoke out against his sentence before a senate judiciary hearing evaluating the effectiveness of mandatory minimum sentences. More than 100 powerful and influential people including judges, attorneys, politicians, activists, authors, and celebrities signed a plea through The Constitution Project asking President Obama to commute Weldon’s sentence. Even the Koch Brothers have taken up his cause.
So far, to no avail.
At the time of his arrest, Weldon Angelos was considered a fast rising star in the music world. He owned his own record label and worked with luminaries like Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur. His incarceration left three young children without a father in their lives.
His sister, Lisa, remains his staunchest supporter. Between her efforts and the visibility of his rising star, a Change.org petition calling for President Obama to commute Weldon Angelos’s sentence has collected over 250,000 signatures. Apparently it needs more because Weldon Angelos still sits in the federal correctional institution at Mendota. He will be eligible for parole in 2051.
How You Can Help
Sign the petition asking President Obama to commute Weldon Angelos’s sentence:
Sending letters and making phone calls to the President and your elected representatives about this case can also help.
Weldon loves getting cards and letters from supporters. Write to him here:
Weldon Angelos #10053-081
P.O. Box 9
Mendota, CA 93640
Want to help more? Here’s how to put money directly onto a prisoner’s books — no middle man, ALL of the money goes DIRECTLY to the prisoner – to be used for phone calls, email, legal expenses, food, personal hygiene items, etc.:
Send a postal money order (yes it must be a POSTAL money order or the Bureau of Prisons will not accept it) to:
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Inmate Name, Inmate Register Number
(in this case Weldon Angelos #10053-081)
Post Office Box 474701
Des Moines, Iowa 50947-0001
Or go to Western Union and find the link on the bottom of the page “send money to an inmate.” (www.westernunion.com)
Editor’s note: Cheri Sicard is a dedicated cannabis activist, the author of Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women (Seal Press, 2015), and The Cannabis Gourmet Cookbook (Z-Dog Media, 2012). Her blog is www.CannabisCheri.com.