The Imperfect War 

Pin It

Good article [“The Dopest Plea Deal Ever,” Nov. 19, City Weekly]. Thanks for the honorable mention. I did a case with Danny Quintana that led to the sentencing guidelines being mandatory-to-advisory.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals finally decided that the War on Drugs was a euphemism, like the War on Poverty. It managed to overlook a dozen points of legal error— like photographs of the crime scene disappearing in the middle of the trial once it was pointed out that they showed the millions of dollars seized at the scene when it was known that only $40,000 made it to the evidence room. That defendant got 10 years for being present in a drug house. He was a Mexican national who had only been in the United States for 20 days.

Judge Dee Benson decided that case, too, and he did everything in his power to reduce the mandatory sentence, but the defendant refused to admit that he had anything to do with the drug-dealing operation. He was only in the drug house because he didn’t know anyone in Salt Lake City and didn’t have any place else to stay.

We argued, among other things, that the War on Drugs was legally a “declared, imperfect war” and that the mandatory sentencing guidelines violated international law, specifically the Geneva Convention.

Despite the commitment of nearly 90,000 U.S. military personnel and billions of dollars of military hardware and a general as our drug czar, the 10th Circuit decided that the War on Drugs was a euphemism and international law did not apply.

At the time, speaking out against the War on Drugs would have been political suicide, but this case and the multidisciplinary public debates we sponsored on the issue did result in the guidelines becoming advisory instead of mandatory.

Sounds like it wasn’t quite enough to prevent abuse of the guidelines in Weldon Angelos’ case. That’s the problem when the separation of powers is ignored. The judiciary must be a check on the power of the executive. Thanks again for keeping the problems with the guidelines and the War on Drugs in the forum of public debate.

Scott H. York
A former attorney for Russell Wagher
Salt Lake City

Pin It

Tags: , ,

Speaking of Letters, ,

  • Walk of Shame, The Lego Movie

    New DVD/VOD Tuesday, June 17
    • Jun 16, 2014
  • Drinking-Class Zero

    Following a night of drinking, Wendy Simpson, 25, walked to a McDonald’s restaurant in West Yorkshire, England, where she was told that the counter was closed and only the drive-through was open but that she couldn’t be served
    • Jun 16, 2014
  • Night Moves

    Night Moves is as terrific as it is frustrating
    • Jun 13, 2014
  • More »

More by City Weekly Readers

  • Soap Box: Oct. 6-12

    • Oct 19, 2016
  • Soap Box: Sept. 22-28

    Our readers have spoken! Here's what they had to say about Five Wives vodka, Utah Valley's predictable billboards, Jason Christiensen's apology for anti-LGBTQ comments and more.
    • Oct 5, 2016
  • Soap Box, Sept. 15-21

    • Sep 28, 2016
  • More »

Latest in Letters


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • A Strange and Barbaric Practice

    In the well-written City Weekly cover story on circumcision ["Circumcision Decision," Sept. 17], the God of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions is credited with beginning this practice: God demands that the 99-year- old Abraham cut off his foreskin in order to prove his loyalty.
    • Sep 23, 2015
  • Mike Noel's Resistance to Reason

    I enjoyed Colby Frazier's cover story about state Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab ["The Herd Bull of the House," May 14, City Weekly]. I attended the Great Public Lands Gamble Rally at the Capitol in January 2015, at which Noel audaciously stepped up to the microphone to attempt a refutation (the gospel according to St. Mike) of the "lies" being perpetrated by the proponents of public lands.
    • May 20, 2015

© 2016 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation