By DEBBIE HUMMEL
Attorneys for a man convicted of carrying a handgun during three marijuana deals have asked the Supreme Court to overturn his 55-year mandatory federal prison sentence.
A judge gave Weldon Angelos the minimum sentence under the law - a harsher sentence than a child rapist or a terrorist who detonates a bomb aboard an aircraft would receive, according to his attorneys. They also say the sentence amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
Angelos' offense in state court would have likely carried a sentence of probation or a few years in jail, according to his attorneys.
Now 27, Angelos was convicted of 16 counts of violating federal firearms, drug and money laundering laws in 2003. The charges stemmed from his sale of three 8-ounce bags of marijuana to an undercover informant.
He had a gun but never brandished or used it. Nevertheless, the three counts of possession of a firearm in a drug transaction required the mandatory minimum sentence.
"This seems to be a case of grossly disproportionate punishment when you look at the facts of the case. Weldon Angelos didn't deserve a life sentence for his offense," said Erik Luna, a law professor at the University of Utah and one of the attorneys.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kathleen Blomquist said the department would not comment on an ongoing case.
At the time of his arrest, Angelos ran a rap music label based in Utah that had recently released a CD featuring several prominent hip-hop artists.