Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“There's no such thing as a free lunch.”     Milton Friedman

July 11, 2007

Don’t Stop With Scooter

by Doug Mataconis

Over at Reason, Jacob Sullum suggests that President Bush take a look a few other unjust sentences now that he’s commuted Scooter Libbey’s prison sentence:

Consider Weldon Angelos, a 24-year-old Utah record producer with two children who in 2004 was sent to prison for 55 years—a life sentence, in effect—because he owned guns when he sold a police informant two eight-ounce bags of marijuana, thereby triggering mandatory minimum sentencing provisions aimed at violent criminals. When he imposed the sentence, U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell urged Bush to commute it, calling it “unjust, cruel, and even irrational.”

A gun also figured in the case of Monica Clyburn, a 38-year-old mother of four who more than a decade ago went with her boyfriend to sell his pistol at a Florida pawnshop. Because he did not have ID, she signed the pawn slip and left her thumb print. Clyburn, who had been convicted of selling three $20 rocks of crack cocaine to an undercover officer several years before, was prohibited from owning firearms, so this pawnshop visit led to a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence she is still serving. “I never even held the gun,” she says.

Brian Ison had no gun; he was just in the wrong place (his methamphetamine dealer’s mobile home in Harrodsburg, Kentucky) at the wrong time (during a 2001 bust). Witnesses said they thought they had seen Ison help cook meth, but he insisted he was only a customer. Turning down a plea agreement that would have resulted in a two-year sentence, the 19-year-old was convicted of manufacturing and received a sentence similar to those imposed on the two cooks who ran the operation: 11 years, three months.

The difference, of course, is that none of these people is politically connected. And none of them are friends of the President or Vice-President. So they’ll probably rot in prison while Scooter sips wine at the country club.

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