SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utahns involved in high-profile criminal cases were given pardons by President Trump.
"It's amazing. The best day of my life!" Angelos said in an interview with FOX 13 shortly after he was informed he'd been pardoned.
"Second best day," he quickly added.
Asked what the best day was, he replied: "Getting out of jail!"
Angelos was sentenced to serve 55 years in federal prison for selling marijuana to an undercover informant. He also had a firearm with him, which earned the harsh punishment under the federal government's minimum mandatory sentencing laws.
President Obama commuted his sentence after 12 years back in 2016. Since then, Angelos has been an outspoken advocate for reforming federal laws and commuting the sentences of non-violent drug offenders. Angelos said he applied for clemency, but was stunned he got it.
Angelos said it was Utah Sen. Mike Lee who called him and gave him the good news. He broke down crying with joy.
"It means I get a second chance to be a real citizen. I don't have to check that box that says I'm a felon. I have all my constitutional rights," he said. "It's amazing. It's a fresh new start for me."
Rep. Lyman was convicted for his role in a 2015 protest over federal road closure policies, sentenced to 10 days in jail and ordered to pay nearly $96,000 in restitution. At the time, he was a San Juan County commissioner (he now serves in the Utah House of Representatives). The case has dragged on for years, with Rep. Lyman criticizing the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah of prosecuting him for political reasons.
Rep. Lyman told FOX 13 late Tuesday he did not have a comment on the pardon right away. Reaction on Utah's Capitol Hill to the news was one of surprise.
The White House said Sen. Lee championed the pardon, as did former Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz.
"Mr. Lyman is known to be a man of integrity and character who was serving as a county commissioner in Utah when he was subjected to selective prosecution for protesting the Bureau of Land Management’s closure of the Recapture Canyon to ATV riders. He had no other criminal history, but he was arrested and sentenced to 10 days in prison and nearly $96,000 in restitution," the statement said.
Sen. Lee said in a statement he supported both pardons.
"Weldon Angelos has already given so much back to his community. He was instrumental in helping to pass the most significant federal criminal justice reform legislation in a generation, the First Step Act, and I know he has a bright future ahead of him. I thank President Trump for listening to his case and making the compassionate decision," Utah's senior senator said. "The prosecution of Phil Lyman—a devoted public servant—amounted to an abuse of prosecutorial discretion by the Obama Justice Department. I thank President Trump for correcting the injustice stemming from this overreach of federal power."