Drug War

I Got To Inform a Person That Trump Granted Her Clemency. So Many Others Deserve That Good News Too.

Trump's clemencies last night surprised a lot of people—including one of the recipients. Clemency advocates are confident more are on the way.

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I've broken some news before, but informing someone that she received clemency from the president was a first.

Last night, after the White House announced 15 pardons and commutations, I texted congratulations to Crystal Munoz, whose term of supervised release was commuted by Donald Trump. Trump had already commuted her 15-year prison sentence for a marijuana offense earlier this year, and I had previously interviewed her about medical neglect inside federal prisons.

To my shock, she hadn't heard yet. I had figured the White House, or someone, would have told her. I don't know what her face looked like, but mine was a mix of surprise and mild horror at being the bearer of such important news.

After a brief moment of panic and triple-checking to make sure I hadn't misread the name on the White House press release, I sent her a screenshot of the announcement. (Full disclosure: When I skimmed the press release I initially mistook "commutation" for "pardon," which have different legal meanings—significantly different if you're the recipient—but Munoz was excited about the news nonetheless.)

Clemency advocates have been fighting hard over the last several months to secure more commutations and pardons for nonviolent drug offenders before Trump exits the White House, and last night's announcement—also filled with commutations and pardons for cronies, corrupt politicians, and mercenaries convicted of murdering Iraqi civilians—underscored both their progress and the uncertainty they're working under. It's a weekly game of "will he or won't he" with the mercurial president. Advocates have put forward lists of deserving clemency and pardon candidates, and they're all optimistic that more commutations are coming down the pipe, but they don't know when, or even if, any of those names will be announced. 

Trump also commuted the terms of supervised release of two other women whom he had already granted clemency: Tynice Nichole Hall and Judith Negron. These commutations are unusual and significant because they recognize the onerous burden that post-incarceration supervision places on former inmates. The commutations will allow Munoz, Hall, and Negron to live more normal lives.

In another significant move, Trump granted a full pardon to Weldon Angelos, whose excessive drug sentence was a cause célèbre among criminal justice advocates seeking to roll back mandatory minimum sentences.

Last night I also called Angelos, who was in the midst of celebrating.

He was not surprised. Angelos had gotten a heads up about his pardon earlier that day from Sen. Mike Lee (R–Utah), who had been instrumental in bringing attention to his case back when he was incarcerated.

"I broke down when I heard the news earlier today from Senator Mike Lee," Angelos says. "It's a fresh new start for me, a chance to live life without being branded a felon, having that F-word stamped on me every time I fill out an application, whether it's for a loan or apartment or house or anything. It feels good. It doesn't give back everything I lost from this prosecution. All the money, my career, my son's time, my father's time before he passed, but this definitely is the next best thing, and I'm deeply grateful to President Trump for granting this and to those who supported me."

In 2004, Angelos received a 55-year mandatory minimum sentence for selling marijuana to an undercover police officer on three occasions. Because he was carrying a pistol in an ankle holster during one of the sales—he never brandished it or showed it—and had the gun close to him during the other two, prosecutors tacked on three counts of using a firearm in the course of a drug trafficking offense. Under the inflexible federal mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, the judge was forced to sentence Angelos, a first-time drug offender, to 55 years in federal prison. (For comparison, Angelos would have served less time under the guidelines if he'd hijacked an airliner or kidnapped someone.)

The sheer insanity of Angelos' sentence would lead Lee, then a federal prosecutor in Utah, and the judge who sentenced him to become advocates for his release. After Lee was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, Angelos became Exhibit A in the case for rolling back mandatory minimums, and specifically the firearm enhancement that led to his five-decade sentence. In 2016, Angelos was freed from federal prison in a deal cut by federal prosecutors, and in 2018 Congress passed the First Step Act, which bars prosecutors from stacking firearm enhancements, as they did in Angelos' case.

Like Alice Johnson, another formerly incarcerated person whose life sentence for a drug crime was commuted by Trump, Angelos is now a criminal justice reform advocate. He's working to free other marijuana offenders serving extreme sentences, and he recently delivered a list of 25 people incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses to the White House.

"We're hoping that some people from that list will be coming down very soon and we're getting really good feedback as well," Angelos says. "I'm hopeful that President Trump will continue to grant second chances and show compassion to these people."

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  1. Cool! Now Snowden and Assange.

    1. Yes, please. Also Ulbricht.

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    2. Those two should absolutely get a pardon. They shouldn’t need one in the first place.

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    3. Not until you say how good of a president Trump has been, unreason staff.

      Oh wait, it doesnt matter what you say or think because youre all commie shitbags.

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  2. Any movement away from so-called “tough on crime” policies is welcome, of course. But the full Koch / Reason #EmptyThePrisons agenda will not take effect until Biden is in the White House.

    1. I’m sure Biden did visit the White House occasionally from 12-4 years ago. I am shocked, shocked! to hear from you that Obama did nothing all those times. Say it ain’t so, Joe!

      1. SleepyJoe had hid hands tied at the time. Soon you will see his truly superhuman thinking capacity unleashed on all our problems . Prepare to be amazed.

    2. Biden and Harris put a lot of those people in prison.

  3. I’m sure Trump is just freeing all these prisoners in the hopes they’ll join his side when he declares Biden a usurper of the throne, refuses to step down as President and the Civil War breaks out.

    1. It worked for Daenerys Targaryen, for a while, anyway.

      1. It’d be neat if Trump had dragons.
        The J. Edgar Hoover Building needs a burning… and it’s in the Brutalist architectural style, so two birds with one stone.

    2. Civil war 2.0 has already broken out.

      Democrats started this civil war just like they started civil war in 1861.

  4. First of all, congrats to CJ for being the bearer of good news for this person.

    Second, yes, it is odd that no one from the administration contacted her, or that she wasn’t informed by her own representatives.

    1. They might have tried when she was out and about.

      1. How far would she be able to go if she was on supervised release before the commutation?

    2. Even funnier is that nobody that hates What Trump does knew he was pardoning her.

      Its almost the media are fucking liars and take credit for what people behind the scenes are doing.

      Commies at unreason are notorious for lying.

      They still think everything is going to work out for Biden.

  5. I’m sure I don’t care as long as the pardons piss off the left. That is great entertainment.

  6. “the judge was forced to sentence Angelos, a first-time drug offender, to 55 years in federal prison”

    Forced? What stopped the judge from saying “heck with this, I quit”?

  7. From his pardons you can clearly tell he sucks at everything he does… Even sucks at being a white supremicist

    1. If this were the Eighties, you could say that Trump shows his racism by not caring about punishing pushers who prey on black people.

    2. Seriously, how do you fuck up at being Hitler so badly that you end up achieving peace between the Arabs and the Jews?

      1. Who were already at peace.

        1. No.
          Go fuck yourself, slimebag. That’s not even remotely true and you know that. I’m not letting you get away with this.

          Explain how having an official government policy that actually states “We are in state of war with the Zionist entity” is already at peace. North Korea hasn’t fired on US troops for a while, that doesn’t mean a peace agreement is now in place between them and the US.

          You’re so desperate to denigrate anything remotely associated with Trump, that you’ll piss on the remarkable steps towards peace those Arab Nations have taken. You pull this shit and yet you still try and pretend you’re not a DNC party shill.
          What a fucking joke you are.
          You’re truly pathetic.

        2. Honestly folks, has White Knight finally exceeded Tony-level dishonesty with this mendacious shit-post?

          1. Gonna call it a draw.

          2. She’s a cunt.

  8. But but but…Orange Man Bad!

    1. What, you gonna dab on us next? Orange man bad is no longer a thing. Get with the program.

  9. he was carrying a pistol in an ankle holster during one of the sales

    That must be why President Choom couldn’t be bothered. Fuck you Barack, you slimy hypocrite.

    -jcr

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