In tomorrow’s New York Times: Long Term in Drug Case Fuels Debate on Sentencing
Weldon H. Angelos, a 25-year-old producer of rap records, will be sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Salt Lake City for selling several hundred dollars in marijuana on each of three occasions, his first offenses. He faces 63 years in prison.
Laws that set mandatory minimum sentences require 55 of the 63 years because Mr. Angelos carried a gun while he sold the drugs [although he did not show or use it].
“It would appear effectively to be a life sentence,” the judge, Paul G. Cassell of Federal District Court there, wrote in a request to the prosecution and the defense for advice about whether he has any choice but to send the man to prison forever.
Judge Cassell noted what the maximum sentences were for other federal crimes:
- Hijacking an airplane: 25 years.
- Terrorist bombing intending to kill a bystander: 20 years.
- Second-degree murder: 14 years.
- Kidnapping: 13 years.
- Rape of a 10-year-old: 11 years.
The Justice Department supports mandatory minimums, said Monica Goodling, a spokeswoman.
“Tough but fair mandatory minimum sentences take habitual lawbreakers off the streets, lock up the most dangerous criminals and help ensure the safety of law-abiding Americans,” Ms. Goodling said.
The Justice Department needs to look up the word “justice,” or perhaps read some Shakespeare.
The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath; it is twice bless’d;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown …
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest god’s
When mercy seasons justice…
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.– Shakespeare
Mandatory minimums for drug crimes are not equitable, not merciful, not compassionate, not fair, not just, and not smart.