Obama Will Pardon Turkeys But Not a First-Time Offender Like Weldon Angelos?

The National
Journal’s Ron Fournier has
a heartbreaking story
about Weldon, Angelos, a first-time
offender caught selling potm that makes all those ha-ha-funny
stories about presidential pardons of turkeys positively obscene.
Read on, but prepare to be outraged.

If a turkey deserves a second chance, why not Weldon

Angelos was
sentenced in 2004 to 55 years’ imprisonment for possessing a
firearm in connection with selling small amounts of marijuana. He
didn’t brandish or use a weapon, nor did he hurt or threaten to
injure anybody. And yet the father of young children and an
aspiring music producer was given an effective life sentence
because of a draconian federal law requiring mandatory minimum

Even the judge on his case, Paul G. Cassell, found the sentence
“cruel and irrational.” While urging Obama to reduce Angelos’s
punishment, the Republican-appointed judge wrote, “While I must
impose the unjust sentence, our system of separated powers provides
a means of redress.”

More than almost any president, Obama has failed to
exercise that “means of redress” inscribed in the Constitution, the
presidential clemency.

Fournier notes that the Obama admin is
rethinking its position toward clemency (and he
cites work
by Reason’s Jacob Sullum). That’s great and all, but
it doesn’t help Angelos or thousands of other in similar

What is to be done? Fournier suggests that

After granting Angelos’s petition, Obama should grant clemency
to inmates sentenced under the old crack-powder guidelines. He also
should eliminate the Justice Department’s sole authority to review
clemency petitions and make recommendations to the president. It’s
an unacceptable conflict of interest to have DOJ prosecutors
reviewing the petitions of people jailed by the DOJ.

A smart suggestion from Osler: follow the example of President
Ford, who created an independent panel to review clemency petitions
from the Vietnam War. Via the Presidential Clemency Board, Ford
granted 1,731 pardons to civilians (those who evaded the draft) and
11,872 to military personnel (who went AWOL). The board inoculated
Ford from political fallout. “No one remembers Ford doing this,”
[law prof and former prosecutor Mark] Osler said, “and draft
evaders weren’t exactly popular back then, just like drug sellers
aren’t now.”

Read the whole thing here
. And please forward this post to
folks who think that turkey pardons are newsworthy.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/27/obama-will-pardon-turkeys-but-not-a-firs

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