Criminal Justice

Iowa must join wave of sentencing reform

Weldon Angelos was 25 years old when he was sentenced to 55 years in prison for selling a few pounds of marijuana to a police informant while in possession of (although not brandishing) a weapon. In 2004, former U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell was forced to impose this sanction under mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. He conducted an unusual interview to express his anguish and disagreement that this penalty is commensurate to the crime committed. It also persuaded Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, to request that President Obama grant executive clemency to Angelos.

Senator Lee, a former federal prosecutor, compared this egregious miscalculation to presumptive sentencing guidelines for other crimes, including an airplane hijacker (293 months), a second-degree murderer (168 months) and a rapist of a child (135 months). Angelos’ sentence for a nonviolent drug-related offense was 660 months — more than all these crimes combined. Senator Lee’s efforts did not prove fruitful, and Angelos is not scheduled to be released until October 2051.

Angelos’ case is notorious among those fighting for mandatory minimum reform, but there are many similar stories where affected individuals would be better served in a drug rehabilitation facility or by receiving treatment for underlying substance abuse or mental illnesses.

Read more . . .

Smith, Christine. (2016, April 4). Iowa must join wave of sentencing reform. The Des Moines Register. Retrieved from

Smith, Christine. (2016, April 4). Iowa must join wave of sentencing reform. USA Today. Retrieved from

In Depth: Criminal Justice

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