55 Years for a Few Bags of Pot

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Weldon Angelos, founder of the rap music label Extravagant Records, was sentenced yesterday to 55 years in federal prison for selling a few bags of marijuana. U.S. District Judge Paul G. Cassell, who imposed the sentence, called it "unjust, cruel, and even irrational" but said his hands were tied by mandatory minimums for people who engage in drug trafficking while possessing a gun: five years for the first offense and 25 years for each subsequent offense. Angelos was convicted of three counts for carrying a pistol in an ankle holster twice and in a briefcase once while selling marijuana on three occasions. He never took the gun out, let alone used it.

He would have been better off if he had. If Angelos had merely murdered his customers instead of selling them pot, his sentence probably would have been lighter. Cassell noted that the same day he sentenced Angelos, he gave 22 years to a man convicted of beating an old woman to death with a log.

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  1. I guess the message to the children(god love them) is that they should kill before being caught with guns and drugs……

  2. I can imagine Bill “Drug Czar” Bennett’s retort: “A murder kills one or two people, but a drug dealer kills OUR CULUTURE!!!”

    As if our culture of prudes and dimwits is worth keeping alive.

  3. Ick, either I really have to get into the habit of proofreading, or they need to install an “Edit” funtion.

  4. Akira,

    So maybe the sentence for doing business with a dominatrix should be five years for the first offense, and 25 for each subsequent offense.

    I work in a hospital, and one of our patients was a scumbag ex-con who’d gone to prison for killing his wife. One of the nurses joked, “It’s too bad they didn’t find a marijuana seed in his pocket–he’d still be in there.”

  5. This is unjust, immoral, and un-American.

    We don’t steal fathers from their children in this country for doing the following things:

    (a) engaging in free enterprise (buy and selling)
    (b) being prepared for self-defense
    (c) voluntary, peaceful transactions

    We certainly don’t make laws that FORCE US to commit unwarranted incarcerations, stuff our prisons, overburden our taxpayers, and allow violent criminals to go free.

    It’s not the American way. But maybe it is now.

  6. Question:

    To what degree are a judge’s hands truly tied? If he found the sentencing truly irrational and cruel, could he not find a way to throw the case out…an act of judicial civil disobedience? potentially ruining his career, yes, but does he have no options for heroism?

  7. “So maybe the sentence for doing business with a dominatrix should be five years for the first offense, and 25 for each subsequent offense.”

    Give the Republicans a few years, and they just might get masturbation made a capital offense.

  8. This issue needs to be reframed. As it is, it’s like the eminent domain discussion:
    A few nutcases riding to the defense of a few nutcases.

    How can we put some drama into whether we own our bodies or not?

  9. Smith,
    I like to think I’m a hero for not being a judge in the first place. But that line of reasoning doesn’t get us very far, does it?

  10. Hmmmm, I thought this was REASON?

    There’s just absolutely no way this guy ever sold ANY OTHER DRUGS to anyone, or SHOT anyone with his pistol. It was just THIS ONE TIME that he just decided, you know, on a childish WHIM, to sell a couple ounces of pot and well, you know, when you’re selling dope you can’t be too careful, so maybe I better strap a pistol to my ankle.

    Not that he’d shoot a cop with it … mind you … after all, he’s just EXPERIMENTING with dope dealing, not actually DEALING IN DOPE.

    As for the judge who only gave a guy 22 years for clubbing a woman to death with a log …. well, that just about sums up what I think of this fucking retard’s opinion on our nation’s drug laws.

  11. This is precisely where jury nullification comes in. Were the jury instructed as to their right to nullify, they could see all the obvious evidence, and still deliver a not guilty verdict. Its also why judges will not allow a lawyer to instruct a jury about nullification.

    “The jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy.” John Jay, but he’s been dead a while.

  12. Robert Lund, an assistant United States attorney who prosecuted the case, called Mr. Angelos a “purveyor of poison,”

    How flaccid. Was that the argument of why he gets 55 years and the murderer gets 22? How many people die each year from using marijuana? How many die from cigarettes and alcohol? Which is the poison again?

    potentially ruining his career, yes, but does he have no options for heroism?

    I think it’s a precept of jurisprudence that a judge has to act within the law, i.e., that an extrajudicial act of disobedience even in good faith, especially on an issue that the SC has flagged as Constitutional, is as damaging to justice as the idiotic mandatory minimums Congress imposes. It didn’t work for Judge Moore, I don’t think he sees it as a sacrifice that would do anything other than raise a local headline then dissipate. Unfortunately I think the only way to fight mandatory minimums is to hope for some kind of critical mass in the number of people sentenced under those guidelines. Or alternatively, we hope for the wayward child of a senator to be sentenced under those guidelines. It’s always “fair” until it’s happening to a senator…then you can expect action.

  13. “I have no choice,” Judge Cassell said to Mr. Angelos, who seemed frozen in place as the extent of the sentence became apparent.

    Not exactly true, the judge should read Mr. Ayatollah Usoe’s post above!

    As for the judge who only gave a guy 22 years for clubbing a woman to death with a log …. well, that just about sums up what I think of this fucking retard’s opinion on our nation’s drug laws.

    Slim, you ignorant slut, start learning about sentencing guidelines and you will realize that the judge’s opinion is meaningless. Take your beef to your local congress person.

  14. Slim,
    And the guy who has a gun collection, he’s a serial killer, right?

  15. I follow your Reasoning Slim. He was caught with pot and a gun (not to mention he’s involved with rap music). Therefore we can conclude he’s guilty of distribution, murder, and most likely cop killing, and we should sentence him accordingly. We all know how those people are, it would be an undue burden on the state to actually convict him on additional charges.

  16. All I know is I worked in the Brooklyn DA’s office for a few years and discovered I could get more time thrown at me for politely offering a bag of H to someone and having them politely turn me down than I could raping their 14 year old daughter.

    Selling was a B felony, rape of a minor was a C. This might have changed in the last 5 years, but I doubt it.

    I could bust someone’s nose wide open and the violation wouldn’t even be on my permanent record.

  17. Slim,

    It may be reasonable to assume this wasn’t necessarily the only bags of pot this guy ever sold, but it’s not reasonable to assume that reason for carrying a gun was to aim it at cops. It may very well be to protect himself from ornery customers or competitors or criminals who have nothing to do with the drug trade.

    And as for the likely scenario that he was not dealing his first bags of pot, aside from the fact that REASON dictates that selling pot violates no one’s right no matter how many times you do it, is it customary in this nation for judicial sentencing to incorporate into its logic a presumed assessment of other criminal behavior by the defendent? Should a bank embezzler’s sentence be based on the belief that he’s probably embezzled before, etc.? I don’t think so and I bet you don’t either.

  18. Or alternatively, we hope for the wayward child of a senator to be sentenced under those guidelines. It’s always “fair” until it’s happening to a senator…then you can expect action.

    rst, you have hit upon an excellent strategy: Let’s raise money to get a private investigator on this. Surely out of the 100 mediocrities in the Senate at least one has a kid who’s sold drugs. Start with the majority leader, majority whip, and key committee chairs, and work down from there. (I’m suggesting we start with the GOP Senate leadership simply because they have the power, not for partisan reasons.) Also look into the Speaker of the House, the House majority leader, majority whip, and key committee chairs.

    Digging this up and forcing the issue could do more for drug reform than any other measure since the repeal of alcohol prohibition.

  19. slim-
    “Hmmmm, I thought this was REASON?”

    Most clever, using the name of the magazine to point to a perceived irony. Obvious, old, and overused. Dumbass.

  20. “I could get more time thrown at me for politely offering a bag of H to someone and having them politely turn me down than I could raping their 14 year old daughter.”

    Rape as in FORCIBLE rape or rape as in “consensual sex with someone the State deems unable to consent”?

  21. Maybe we should ban logs.

  22. This is a symptom of why I quit the NRA. (I’m still an NRA instructor, and teaching an NRA course this weekend, but no longer a member. How that works I don’t know.)

    The NRA pushed heavily for laws punishing crime with gun, not crime where gun was aggravating element. The NRA hopes to get into bed with the govermnent. Last I looked, it was only government trying to take away guns.

    With the criminalization of nearly everything, including bad accounting last I looked, anyone who choses to exercise their Second Amendment right risks getting excessive time for some other minor unrelated infraction. I think it is not about drugs, but about cowing us into abandoning our gun rights.

  23. Give the Republicans a few years, and they just might get masturbation made a capital offense.

    Give the Democrats a few years, and they’ll pass a law affirming your right to masturbate, and instituting a licensing bureau for registered masturbators. See the “Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986” for details.

  24. (Okay, I’ll pile on the troll too)

    Slim,

    In Reason readers, you’re addressing a group of people who largely believe that not only should dealing drugs not be illegal, but that self defense through the judicious use of firearms is also a basic human right. Good luck with that.

  25. Start with the majority leader, majority whip, and key committee chairs, and work down from there

    No, apparently that won’t work. You see, when a majority leader might get caught breaking the rules, he just has his cronies change them.

  26. This is unjust, immoral, and un-American.

    Yes, yes, and no. It’s been the American Way for a long, long time that drugs are the most evil thing in existence, mostly out of a bizarre, Puritanical aversion to pleasure. The ridiculous sentences we’ve been seeing for a while now are merely the logical result.

  27. Patrick,
    Reminds me of a book I’m reading about Benjamin Franklin. Seems his Silence Dogood schtick was a way of jousting with Cotton Mather.
    That was in the early 1700’s.
    The evolution of the pleasure is sin meme is evolving oh so slowly.

  28. Mike,

    The GOP claims they’re for moral values. They don’t claim they’re against hypocrisy.

  29. “Carrying a gun in the commission of such crimes, he said, meant that Mr. Angelos was prepared “to kill other human beings.”

    No shit, but did he? What was the name of that crappy ass movie where Tom Cruise ran around, arresting people before they committed a crime? I think it was Tom Cruise…anyways, I had a point here. Oh yeah, this coupled with the monday night football episode that is being entirely blown out of proportion makes me want to drink a fifth of jack and kill a puritan tonight…with a log…go to jail…serve my 22 years, kill another puritan…and still be out 6 yrs. before that poor bastard sees the light of day. What a sad, sad country.

  30. Minority Report.

  31. There’s just absolutely no way this guy ever sold ANY OTHER DRUGS to anyone, or SHOT anyone with his pistol. It was just THIS ONE TIME that he just decided, you know, on a childish WHIM, to sell a couple ounces of pot and well, you know, when you’re selling dope you can’t be too careful, so maybe I better strap a pistol to my ankle.

    You’re kidding, right? Imagine the prosecutor’s closing statements:

    “Ladies and gentleman of the jury, I know that the defendant is only under indictment and on trial for these particular charges, but let’s for a few moments speculate on fantasy crimes that he may or may not ever have committed or even considered, has certainly not been charged with, and is definitely not under indictment for. And then let’s deliberate and return a verdict on that basis, and then let’s sentence him on that basis too. And then let’s all wave bye-bye to the defendant, who will be retiring to an island in the Mediterranean with the money he’ll get from the lawsuit charging egregious violation of his civil rights.”

  32. A thought I recently had about protesting sentencing “guidelines”: what if a judge were to sentence a convict and intentionally disobey the guidelines, and then resign? The convict can’t be tried again, because that would be double jeopardy. I realize that sacrificing your career over a principle like this is something not many people would be willing to do (probably me included), but I could just maybe see a judge who was on the verge of retirement doing it as a political gesture. Of course, American politics being what it is, they’d probably find some way of re-sentencing the convict anyway…

  33. There’s just absolutely no way this guy ever said ANYTHING INCREDIBLEY RETARDED to anyone before. It was just THIS ONE TIME that he just decided, you know, on a pseudo-intellectual WHIM, to be an idiot for the sake of dissent.

    Not that he’d make an ASS out of himself in the process. Not BY arguing aginsT shared libertarian values on a lib blog, then SARCASTICALLY QUESTIONING the merits of those who were following the blog’s creed. Indeed, there was also the CRAPPY IRONY he tried implying with such an OUTLANDISH statement as Hmmmm, I thought this was REASON?

    wow, what a stain.

  34. It has happened in the case of a child molester who was facing the 3-strikes penalty in NH. http://www.seacoastonline.com/news/hampton/04162004/news/11040.htm The judge didn’t resign, so I don’t know if that would change the scenerio. In that case, I guess the prosecutor can appeal the sentence. ref: rst’s post, he has some excellent insight, and he even uses the word “jurisprudence.”

  35. If I remember correctly, Ed Rosenthal faced five years for cultivation and the US Attorney’s office wanted him locked away. Fortunately, the presiding judge gave him a ONE DAY sentence and told the prosecutors to get the fuck out of his courtroom and quit wasting the public’s time with such a bullshit case.

    At the very least he could have invoked the “safety valve” provision and let the matter be settled on appeal.

    Then again, better to send a man to jail for half a century than ruin your petty political aspirations…

  36. JD,

    In the famous words of Daffy Duck, there’s only one problem, you can only do it once.

  37. “Yes, yes, and no. It’s been the American Way for a long, long time that drugs are the most evil thing in existence, mostly out of a bizarre, Puritanical aversion to pleasure. The ridiculous sentences we’ve been seeing for a while now are merely the logical result.”

    The Puritans are taking a bad rap here. After reading The Spirits of America: A Social History of Alcohol by Burns, I stopped picking on them. They were drunks too.

  38. “Give the Democrats a few years, and they’ll pass a law affirming your right to masturbate, and instituting a licensing bureau for registered masturbators.”

    Man, I could hang out in that line, like, ALL DAMN DAY.

  39. Hmmmmmm …

    Let’s try this again:

    The story goes to great lengths to equate a murder conviction sentence with a drug distribution/weapons carrying conviction sentence.

    It does this for a purpose … to attempt through the use of a canard to suggest that drug laws are somehow whacked because you can kill someone and only get 22 years, but if you carry a gun and sell dope, you get 55 years.

    The story does not tell us how many bags of dope Mr. Rap was distributing … just a “few.” That’s a pretty telling omission meant to suggest that this guy was some small-time dealer when in fact he may not have been.

    The story further takes great pains to note that, while the defendent routinely totes a gun around during his drug dealing … he never takes it out and shoots anyone with it. Here again, the straw man comes out to suggest that the carrying of the gun was totally beside some point, since, after all, nobody was shot and killed. “He would have been better off if he had (taken the gun out and shot someone)” the straw man defense goes … because he would have gotten less time.

    Which, is total UN-reasoned BS and wouldn’t pass the sniff test at a high-school debating society.

    Look … I don’t care if you people want to smoke dope. Please, be my guest. It makes it much, much more likely that you won’t be in the same job market as I am and thus, much much more likely that your dope smoking substantially increases my desireablity in the job market, dramatically, over the long-term, increasing my earning potential. Puff away daddies.

    But if you are going to trot out discrepant sentencing and suggest that rap “producers” who tote guns around and are only selling “a few bags” of marijuana are basically harmless individuals caught up in wrongful sentencing guideline laws, then you aren’t gonna get much sympathy from most people who aren’t consuming your favorite product.

    I agree that there is a sentencing discrepancy here: the judge who gave the guy 22 years for killing the little old lady with a log could and should have eliminated the discrepancy, not by reducing the 55 years Mr. Rap got, but instead ensured that the killer got life.

    That this judge thought it fitting that a log-weilding little-old lady murder only deserves 22 years is quite, quite telling of this person’s intellectual capacity – and is the SINGLE BEST argument for removing from idiot judges the discretion they so desire when it comes to cap-busting-capable dope dealers.

    Rebuttals?

  40. slim says “Look … I don’t care if you people want to smoke dope. Please, be my guest. It makes it much, much more likely that you won’t be in the same job market as I am and thus, much much more likely that your dope smoking substantially increases my desireablity in the job market, dramatically, over the long-term, increasing my earning potential. Puff away daddies.”

    Gee, I guess that’s why Carl Sagan had that lousy job – he said he smoked pot everyday – no wonder he was such a loser in the job market.

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