Barack Obama

Obama Will Pardon Turkeys But Not a First-Time Offender Like Weldon Angelos?


The National Journal's Ron Fournier has a heartbreaking story about Weldon, Angelos, a first-time offender caught selling potm that makes all those ha-ha-funny stories about presidential pardons of turkeys positively obscene. Read on, but prepare to be outraged.

If a turkey deserves a second chance, why not Weldon Angelos?

Angelos was sentenced in 2004 to 55 years' imprisonment for possessing a firearm in connection with selling small amounts of marijuana. He didn't brandish or use a weapon, nor did he hurt or threaten to injure anybody. And yet the father of young children and an aspiring music producer was given an effective life sentence because of a draconian federal law requiring mandatory minimum sentences.

Even the judge on his case, Paul G. Cassell, found the sentence "cruel and irrational." While urging Obama to reduce Angelos's punishment, the Republican-appointed judge wrote, "While I must impose the unjust sentence, our system of separated powers provides a means of redress."

More than almost any president, Obama has failed to exercise that "means of redress" inscribed in the Constitution, the presidential clemency.

Fournier notes that the Obama admin is rethinking its position toward clemency (and he cites work by Reason's Jacob Sullum). That's great and all, but it doesn't help Angelos or thousands of other in similar situations.

What is to be done? Fournier suggests that

After granting Angelos's petition, Obama should grant clemency to inmates sentenced under the old crack-powder guidelines. He also should eliminate the Justice Department's sole authority to review clemency petitions and make recommendations to the president. It's an unacceptable conflict of interest to have DOJ prosecutors reviewing the petitions of people jailed by the DOJ.

A smart suggestion from Osler: follow the example of President Ford, who created an independent panel to review clemency petitions from the Vietnam War. Via the Presidential Clemency Board, Ford granted 1,731 pardons to civilians (those who evaded the draft) and 11,872 to military personnel (who went AWOL). The board inoculated Ford from political fallout. "No one remembers Ford doing this," [law prof and former prosecutor Mark] Osler said, "and draft evaders weren't exactly popular back then, just like drug sellers aren't now."

Read the whole thing here. And please forward this post to folks who think that turkey pardons are newsworthy.

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  1. Hey, Weldon – fuck you, that’s why. Too bad you were put away in ’04 – if you’d had a chance to vote for O in ’08 and ’12, I’m sure he’d have taken care of you, just like he does all his supporters.

    1. I’m hoping that’s sarcastic.

  2. Why pardon a Thanksgiving turkey but not a Christmas ham?

    1. Because pigs are evil.

      1. And tasty…especially when glazed with honey.

  3. When did this stupid turkey pardon crap start anyway? It’s stupid, it doesn’t even make sense and as this article points out, it makes a mockery of the important and underused pardon power.

    1. Do regular, ordinary pardons require any special paperwork, and do they go through the actual motions when pardoning a turkey?

    2. Reagan was the first president to do it, in 1987, but he only did it once. The first Bush made it a regular practice beginning in 1989.

  4. Fournier notes that the Obama admin is rethinking its position toward clemency…

    I don’t know. Giving clemency to someone is tacit admission that the state can be wrong about something. No one wants to admit their god is fallible.

  5. If I were President, I would not have the turkey pardon – in fact, I’d go Game of Thrones on the turkeys. I’d introduce the term Red Thanksgiving into the vernacular.

  6. Ok, this is funny.

    I read this =

    “a first-time offender caught selling potm”

    And…because it’s *nick*, you know…. I naturally assume he’s super-tuned into all the hyper-nascent illegal-substances scenes in America, and that there’s now this shit being sold called “potm” which I’ve never heard of…. And I actually googled it.

    Yes, that’s how fucking stupid I am.

    Which is funny.

    1. +1 Urban Dictionary

    2. I thought he meant “porn”.

  7. What happens to judges who simply dis-obey the laws about mandatory minimums? Do they get nailed to a cross? If not, then why don’t they simply disobey the laws and take whatever consequences come their way? They might LOSE THEIR JOBS of sucking down big fat paychecks at the titties of the tax-payers? They might lose their highly sought-after powers? Till they actually disobey the laws, I do NOT have much sympathy for the whining judges, they are just being Whores for State power, no matter how much they whine?

    1. They would just reversed on appeal. Maybe have cases taken from their docket. At worst impeachment, but that’s pretty unlikely.

      1. It’s a moot point anyway. Those judges love their cushy jobs and there’s no way they’re going to go against mandatory minimums and run the risk of a [gasp] violent felon getting out before what should have been their mandatory sentence and committing another [gasp] violent drug crime (like carrying pot while otherwise-legally armed).

        Judges are as guilty as the asshole prosecutors for being gutless douchebags who walk on the bodies of those peoples’ lives they ruin to enhance their careers.

        1. You’d think having lifetime appointments would give them some balls. I don’t think it’s very easy to remove a federal judge. But I suppose there are ways to make their jobs a lot less fun.

          1. They’re as concerned with upward mobility as the next guy.

            1. Oh yeah, that too.

  8. BTW, its stories like this that make me seethe at the so-called ‘bleeding hearts’ who are constantly slandering other Americans for their lack of moral-outrage at things like…. lack of maternity care insurance, etc.

    This guy could spend another 20 years behind bars and meanwhile the proggies will be whipping up KONY(jr)2033

  9. The only way to rectify the mass incarceration of innocent turkeys on death row is to end the death penalty for turkeys. Have a vegetarian Thanksgiving!

      1. If only Bernie Sanders was standing in front of the bus as opposed to on the sidewalk…or is that Joe Lieberman?

        Well, either way, fuck him.

        1. It’s hard to tell who it is. All DC wonk-o-crats look the same to me.

          1. Oh, is that DC? No wonder I started retching as I opened the link.

  10. the Obama admin is rethinking its position toward clemency

    He may find himself in need of clemency, one of these days.

    1. And we can only hope President Paul is there to laugh in his smug fucking face.

  11. I believe the turkey is a zero time offender. Actually that makes me wonder why the hell they call it a pardon? Is Obama forgiving him for the crime of not being born into the privileged class?

  12. On Thanksgiving, he should eat a turkey and grant some pardons to actual people. Make it an event.

    “Ms. X made a mistake and was a drug mule for her lover. But she got an excessive sentence, so I’m shortening it.”

    “Mr. Y was convicted for some weird regulatory offense about Indian wood. I think that’s unfair, hence this pardon.”

    “There’s a few people who still have draft-evasion convictions on their records from before 1964. Numero uno, the draft is unconstitutional. Numero two-O, President Carter pardoned the Vietnam draft-dodgers while ignoring the earlier offenders, which is all mixed up – the older offenders should get pardoned first. So I’m signing an amnesty.”

    “This guy blew the whistle on illegal government activity, but instead of being a hero, he’s in exile for fear of prosecution. This pardon is my way of saying come on back, we celebrate your defense of freedom!”

    1. Or pardon some people and not eat a turkey.

  13. When Thomas Marshal was governor of Indiana, his proclivity for granting pardons was so well-known that there was a joke about him granting clemency to someone who bumped into him and said “pardon me, governor!” We don’t seem to get governors like that any more, more’s the pity.

    Marshal became Wilson’s VP but lacked the balls to take over the Presidency when Wilson was incapacitated. Too bad, he would have been an immense improvement.

  14. Typo on word 19 “Potm”

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