Utah Judge Questions Equity of Mandatory Sentences


Weldon Angelos, a Utah recording industry executive convicted of carrying a firearm while negotiating marijuana deals, is facing a minimum 61 1/2-year term when he is sentenced next month.

But the federal judge who will sentence Angelos, 24, wants to know if this is fair, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell has asked the prosecutor and defense attorney in the case to write briefs exploring whether such a stiff mandatory sentence is constitutional.

“At first blush, this appears to be an extraordinarily long prison term for Mr. Angelos,” Cassell wrote Tuesday in an order directing the lawyers to write briefs before the March 26 sentencing. “Indeed, it would appear to effectively be a life sentence. Before imposing such a severe sentence, the court plans to carefully consider all relevant legal issues.”

Angelos’ attorney calls the law that mandates the long minimum term for his client “absurd.”

Federal judges calculate punishment using sentencing guidelines that set a standard term based on the crime and the criminal background of a defendant. The jurists can make the term longer or shorter — called upward and downward departures — based on aggravating and mitigating factors, but generally have little leeway when an offense carries a mandatory sentence, the Tribune reported.

Link: http://www.sltrib.com/2004/Feb/02232004/utah/141606.asp

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