Pass the Justice Safety Valve Act
When my brother was sentenced to 55 years for a nonviolent marijuana offense eleven years ago, the judge who sentenced him strongly opposed sending a father of three to prison for so long. But because of mandatory minimum sentencing, he had no choice. Now, a new bill in Congress will give judges the authority to give sentences lower than the mandatory punishment in certain cases where the sentence is excessive. The Justice Safety Valve Act will finally let judges do what they're supposed to: judge! It would allow judges to sentence a person to less prison time than the mandatory minimum law requires whenever the mandatory minimum sentence is unjust or excessive. Federal judges are currently bound to sentence offenders in compliance with mandatory minimum sentences, resulting in unfair sentences and an explosion in the prison population. My brother's judge called the sentence “unjust, cruel, and even irrational.” He's not the only one. There are judges all over the country who oppose mandatory minimum sentencing because these laws prevent them from using their discretion to hand out the appropriate sentence and often force them to destroy families. In a recent interview, Weldon's judge said, “If he had been an aircraft hijacker, he would have gotten 24 years in prison. If he’d been a terrorist, he would have gotten 20 years in prison. If he was a child rapist, he would have gotten 11 years in prison. And now I’m supposed to give him a 55-year sentence? I mean, that’s just not right.” The Justice Safety Valve Act has bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House -- but your lawmakers need to hear from you. We can pass this bill and greatly improve the criminal justice system. Please sign my petition calling on Congress to pass the Justice Safety Valve Act.
Free Weldon Angelos - 55 years for marijuana
My brother Weldon Angelos, who was on his way to becoming a successful musician--writing and producing songs with artists such as Snoop Dogg and other acclaimed musicians--has been in federal prison for over 12 years. He faces 43 more years. All because he sold small amounts of marijuana and possessed--only possessed, didn't use--a gun at the same time! Even the judge who sentenced Weldon disagreed with the mandatory sentence of 55 years. The father of two young boys and a daughter, Weldon had never before been in trouble with the law. He was convicted when he was 24 years old of selling small amounts of marijuana to a confidential informant three times. The informant, who was a childhood acquaintance of Weldon, testified that a gun was present (never brandished or used) during two of the pot deals, which were friendly encounters in a store parking lot. When the police officers presented a warrant for Weldon's arrest, he consented to a search of his home, where officers found some marijuana and three guns, one in a locked brief case and the other two in a locked safe. The conservative federal judge Paul Cassell, appointed by President George W. Bush, sentenced Weldon to one day in prison on the marijuana charges. But, to the judge's dismay, he had to sentence Weldon to 55 years in prison because Weldon possessed a gun during a drug offense, which was mandatory under federal law, even though Weldon had never before been convicted of a crime. Judge Cassell called the sentence "cruel, unjust, and even irrational," and "one of those rare cases where the system has malfunctioned." Members of Congress have also publicly decried the injustice of Weldon's sentence, including Senators Rand Paul (R- Ky.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Mike Lee (R-Ut.), and Orrin Hatch (R-Ut.), and over 100 former federal prosecutors and judges joined together to challenge Weldon's outrageous sentence. Judge Cassell highlighted that Weldon's sentence is far longer than the sentences received for "child rape (11 years)," "second-degree murder (14 years)," and even "aircraft hijacking (24 years)." Had Weldon been prosecuted in state court, the judge noted, Weldon would have served about 2 years in prison. In 2004, Judge Cassell called upon the President to commute Weldon's unjust sentence. Since then, Senators Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch of Utah, and dozens of prominent celebrities, activists, book authors, legal scholars, business leaders (including Koch Industries), and former elected and appointed government officials have joined Judge Cassell in calling on President Obama to release Weldon from prison. But that hasn't happened yet. After 12 years, Weldon is still in prison. It breaks my heart. My father feared he would die without ever seeing Weldon free from prison. And on January 4, 2015, that's exactly what happen. Our father died without seeing his son free from behind bars. The Constitution provides the President with the power of commutation to reach a humane, merciful, just result. Please help us reach that result by signing and sharing this petition.