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Judge Gives Drug, Weapons Convict 55 Years

November 17, 2004

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ A judge who condemned federal sentencing laws as ``unjust, cruel and irrational″ said he had little choice Tuesday but to sentence a first-time drug offender caught with a handgun to 55 years and one day in prison.

U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell gave record producer Weldon Angelos the minimum 55 years for carrying the gun _ and one day for dealing marijuana and money laundering while in possession of the weapon.

Cassell said Angelos, 25, will serve more time than rapists, murderers or airline hijackers _ and won’t be eligible for release until he’s 70.

``I’m disappointed the judge didn’t go the extra step″ of ignoring the sentencing guidelines, said Angelos’ attorney, Jerry Mooney, who plans an appeal.

Cassell said he would call on President Bush to commute Angelos’s sentence and Congress to change sentencing laws for drug offenders.

Before trial Angelos was offered a plea bargain with a 16-year sentence, but he strongly denied carrying a gun outside his home during alleged drug transactions. That testimony came from an informant ``of some disreputable background,″ Mooney said.

A jury exonerated Angelos of two other gun charges but convicted him of twice wearing a gun in an ankle holster and once carrying it in a briefcase.

Prosecutor Robert Lunt said Angelos has been suspected of drug trafficking and money laundering for years and got what he deserved.

Last year’s trial made news when the witness list included Snoop Dogg and other artists who had worked with Angelos, but Bad Azz was the only big name artist who ended up testifying.

The defense argued Angelos made money legally through his work, while prosecutors claimed he used drug money to finance his music business, Extravagant Records.

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