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Former federal judge writes to White House requesting reduced sentence for jailed Utah man

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Posted at 10:36 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-10 09:48:14-05

SANDY, Utah -- In 2004, Weldon Angelos of Sandy was sentenced to 55 years in federal prison. His crime, selling marijuana worth $350 to an undercover cop on three separate occasions. Angelos is also accused of having a gun during each drug sale, though he is not accused of showing or using the weapon.

"I was very proud to be a federal judge but I wasn't very proud to impose this sentence, which I think everybody in the courtroom knew wasn't the right thing to do,” said Paul Cassell, a law professor at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney Law School.

Cassell’s hands were tied. The sentence was a mandatory minimum tied to the gun charges -- five years for the first count, 25 for each of the next two.

"When you sentence someone like Weldon Angelos to 55 years in prison, what does that say to the family of a murder victim or a woman who has been raped or child who's been abused?  Their perpetrators are getting much shorter sentences and that's simply unfair,” Cassell said.

On Tuesday, Cassell sent a letter to President Obama asking him to commute the sentence handed down to Angelos.  He is joined by similar calls from Sen. Mike Lee and former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson among others.

Angelos’ family still lives in Sandy. His sister, Lisa Angelos, had asked Cassell to write a letter on behalf of her brother but only learned of the letter when her phone started ringing.

"Today is a super high moment,” his sister said.

One of Angelos’ three kids, Jesse, lives with Lisa Angelos in Sandy.

Jesse talked about his hopes for seeing his family together again.

"Just me, my brother, my sister and my dad all together again, like how we would have been," he said.

The White House has yet to respond to Paul Cassell’s letter.