U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell isn’t the sort of judge you would call a weak-kneed, bleeding-heart, soft-on-crime liberal.
From his clerkship with then-Appeals Court Judge Antonin Scalia, to his provocative articles as a University of Utah law professor, to his (unsuccessful) U.S. Supreme Court argument that police shouldn’t have to warn suspects they can remain silent, Cassell had become a leader in the conservative legal movement by the time President George W. Bush named him to the federal bench three years ago.
So why is a judge like him seeking a presidential commutation for a gun-toting, drug-dealing, rap music producer?
Surely the planets reversed orbit when Cassell ruled it was “unjust, cruel and even irrational” to sentence Weldon Angelos to 55 years in prison. And yet, that is the sentence Cassell himself gave Angelos.
Congress made him do it, the judge wrote, shocking though it is that Congress behaved irrationally. It was a federal law imposing mandatory minimum sentences that put Angelos, the 24- year-old founder of Extravagant Records, behind bars for what could well be the rest of his life. (This law and others like it are separate from the sentencing guidelines ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in January.)