A federal judge on Wednesday refused to toss out a 55-year prison sentence for a Salt Lake music producer who was convicted of selling marijuana to a government informant possessing a gun.
The case of Weldon Angelos and the harsh sentence he received has prompted objections from even highly conservative legal experts who fault the federal court system's minimum mandatory sentencing.
U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell in a 14-page ruling denied Angelos' latest — and probably last — legal bid to get his sentence vacated, and it is likely he will serve the full prison term.
Angelos had filed a motion arguing that he had received poor legal help from his trial lawyer during plea negotiations prior to his 2003 trial. Angelos said if his lawyer, Jerome Mooney, had fully explained what could happen if Angelos insisted on going to trial, Angelos would have taken a plea offered by federal prosecutors that would have resulted in a 16-year prison term.
Campbell ruled that Mooney, a veteran defense attorney, had provided Angelos with "competent and thorough" legal help.
Angelos was convicted by a jury of 16 counts of drug distribution, weapons possession and money laundering.
Former U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell, a longtime advocate for crime victims, sentenced Angelos to the minimum mandatory term of 55 years in prison, but the judge made clear how dissatisfied he was with the minimum mandatory sentencing system. Cassell imposed the sentence that he was required to impose, but termed it "unjust, cruel and even irrational" and noted that certain murderers and rapists get shorter prison terms.
Even some jurors who convicted Angelos expressed dismay that the sentence was so long.
However, federal prosecutors testified at an evidentiary hearing that they had evidence Angelos was a prominent drug dealer and member of a violent gang. They considered their original plea deal that would bring a 16-year prison term to be quite fair, and prosecutors decided not to pursue further plea negotiations after Angelos declined to plead guilty to a gun charge.
Angelos has exhausted every appeal, including trying to take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would not hear it.
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