Weldon Angelos, just a month freed from a federal prison cell, came to Washington this week to thank Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republicans who helped cut the 55-year prison term that even his sentencing judge said was wrong. He was freed May 31.
The details are a mystery because of sealed court records, but he was not pardoned and did not have his sentence commuted, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Angelos is likely to assume an even bigger role as a poster child for criminal-justice reform, which has found bipartisan support in Congress even as it remains low on the agenda this year.
Lee’s Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, backed by Assistant Majority Leader John Cornyn of Texas and Assistant Democratic leader Dick Durbin of Illinois, would get rid of some enhanced sentences for first-time offenders, cut five years off some of the more stringent minimum-mandatory sentence guidelines, and offer judges more leeway in cases involving nonviolent drug offenses. The bill would apply retroactively, a point that Angelos noted has many federal inmates looking for help from Congress. “I was incarcerated with many individuals who were serving long sentences like me, some cases that were even more compelling than mine and they didn’t have the support network I have,” he said. “So they’re stuck in there waiting on sentencing reform. That’s all anyone thinks about in prison is sentencing reform.”