Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Drug War "Justice" in Utah

Members of Utah's most violent gang strike a pose.

(Updated and revised)

Utah resident Virginia Ward cried on November 18 as she was sentenced to 90 days in jail – and three years of probation -- for drug trafficking. This meant that she would join the large and ever-growing population of prisoners she helped to create as a former Justice Court Judge.

As if in compensation for having to spend Christmas behind bars, Ward was allowed to open several presents early. When she was arrested earlier this year, Ward confronted the possibility of two 15-year prison sentences for her role in a multistate smuggling operation. Before the case went before a judge, the prosecutor had dropped one of the charges in exchange for a guilty plea. 
Ward, without her official costume.
Thus began an unusual auction in which the prosecutor, the parole department, and the trial judge sought to bid down the price their former colleague would pay for breaking laws she had enforced while feeding her own Oxycodone addiction. 

During the sentencing hearing Ward was informed that the prosecution had reduced its sentencing recommendation to six months. The judge cut that already lenient sentence in half. For its part, the department of probation and parole had recommended against any jail time.

“Mercy should be tempered with maintaining the public trust,” pontificated Assistant Utah Attorney General Scott Reed, seeking to fortify the fiction that his office was seeking accountability. “You cannot separate the fact that this conduct occurred while she was a sitting and active judge, an active member of the Utah State Bar, a mother of two children.”

The facts described by Reed would suggest that the appropriate sentence would be one of exemplary severity, rather than one of uncommon leniency. What Reed must have meant, given the arrangements made by his office, was that the punishment Ward’s illegal conduct should be mitigated by her position and the faithful service she had rendered on behalf of the prison-industrial complex.

As the Salt Lake Tribune observed, other defendants in the courtroom who were not clothed in similar privilege found the spectacle to be less than edifying.

“Slap on the wrist,” muttered one in disgust.

“I would have gotten the same sentence for a speeding ticket,” added another.

Not only was Ward given a relatively trivial punishment (in comparison to what others would receive, in any case), she was also the beneficiary of special arrangements intended to shield her from potential retaliation by others whose freedom she had taken away. When she reported for jail the day before Thanksgiving, Ward was taken to a cell outside of Salt Lake County, in order to avoid other inmates she had imprisoned for indulging in weaknesses similar to her own.

Ward says that she became addicted to Oxycodone after obtaining a prescription to deal with a neck injury. The judge was receiving packages containing the prescription drug at a UPS store in Salt Lake City. She was in possession of 338 Oxycodone tablets when DEA agents arrested her in March

She told investigators that she was taking the pills to another person – named either Jose or Josh – in exchange for a small portion of them. She also described trading other controlled substances in exchange for the painkiller.
While government has no legitimate authority to regulate what people freely consume, it is also true that abuse of prescription medication is a serious public health concern, particularly in Utah. 

Utah finds itself “up near the top in the country” regarding prescription drug abuse, Dr. Glen Hanson of the Utah Addiction Center at the University of Utah told the Deseret News. “For almost every other drug of abuse, whether it’s tobacco, or alcohol, or cocaine, or heroin, we’re usually way down near the lowest in the country.”

Given the severity of that problem (which cannot be solved by imprisoning addicts or those who supply their drugs, of course), Ward’s involvement in an interstate smuggling ring would likely have been rewarded with a long stint in federal prison – if she hadn’t been involved in feeding other human beings into the maw of the penal system. 
Angelos with two of his three children.

While Ward prepared to spend her first Christmas in jail, fellow Utah resident Weldon Angelos is about to spend his ninth Christmas in federal prison. 

Assuming that the father of three children survives prison, his freedom will not be restored until 2059, when he will be 78 years old. The supposed crime for which Weldon will spend nearly his entire life in a cage was selling about 24 ounces of marijuana to a police informant.

In 2002, Angelos, a successful musician and record producer, was lured into selling small amounts of marijuana to a childhood friend name Ronnie Lazalde, who was involved in a local gang called Varrio Loco Town. Lazalde was facing serious narcotics and firearms charges, and in an effort to obtain a "downward departure" on his prospective prison sentence he agreed to act as an informant.

At the time, Angelos's criminal record contained a single conviction as a juvenile for possession of a handgun. He admits that he was involved in small-time marijuana dealing at the time Lazalde approached him.

In three separate transactions observed by officers with Salt Lake City’s Metro Gang Unit, Angelos sold eight ounces of pot to Lazalde. Eager to validate his claim that his erstwhile friend was a major drug dealer -- and therefore a bigger prize to police -- Lazalde continually demanded that Angelos sell him cocaine and firearms. That prompted Angelos to cut off any further contact with the informant after the third deal.

In July of that year, Angelos was arrested and cited for carrying a small pistol in an ankle holder. When Lazalde learned of that arrest, he contacted his handler, Detective Jason Mazuran (who is now a SWAT commander in Salt Lake City). Displaying the insouciant disregard for truth that typifies his professional, Mazuran retro-fitted that detail into previous reports of the drug deals: Now Angelos was accused of carrying a firearm in connection with drug trafficking.

Federal prosecutor Robert Lund, who seems to be the type of person whose character could profit from an encounter with the Iron Sheik, offered Angelos a deal: Fifteen years in federal prison in exchange for a guilty plea to one three counts of drug dealing and one firearms-related offense under section 924[c] of the federal criminal code. 

Not surprisingly, Angelos declined that offer. Unfortunately, Angelos had been a member of the productive sector, rather than a functionary of the criminal “justice” system, so he couldn’t expect the kind of leniency that had been extended to Ward.

Federal prosecutors prefer to obtain convictions through extortion, rather than a trial. Lund obtained a superseding indictment charging Angelos with five 924[c] offenses that would carrying a minimum mandatory sentence of 105 years in prison.

Snitch: Ronnie Lazalde, seen here dressed up for Halloween.
None of the police observing the controlled marijuana buys reported seeing a gun. Lazalde made no mention of seeing a gun during his original debriefing. No video, audio, or photographic evidence of a gun was ever produced by the police. All of the original police reports of the transactions are barren of any mention of a firearm. 

However, by the time the case went to trial in late 2004, the testimony offered by the officers and their informant had been revised to meet the needs of the prosecution. As is generally the case in federal trials, the jury delivered a conviction.

“The court believes that to sentence Mr. Angelos to prison for the rest of his life is unjust, cruel, and even irrational,” declared federal Judge Paul Cassell at sentencing. “It is also far in excess of the sentence imposed for such serious crimes as aircraft hijacking, second-degree murder, espionage, kidnapping, aggravated assault, and rape.” 

Despite the fact that he appeared to be a man burdened with a conscience, Cassell imposed what he admitted was an unconstitutionally cruel sentence, even as he urged presidential commutation “to something that is more in accord with just and rational punishment.” 

A prison term of any length as punishment for a voluntary transaction involving a benign substance is neither just nor rational. The only legitimate crime committed in those transactions was the fraudulent behavior of the police informant, who spent a few years in prison and is now free

"I was  able to turn my life around and that's all I can tell you about my past life that is over," Lazalde told Pro Libertate. After if he had thought of interceding on behalf of the childhood friend he had helped put into prison for life, Lazalde replied: "That is not my decision. Years ago Weldon was given the chance to help himself and he chose not to." I pointed out that the "helpful" deal extended to Angelos was to choose between 15 years in prison or a life sentence. 

"What was the deal you were offered?" I asked Lazalde.

"Like I told you, my past is my past," the informant insisted, suggesting that any further questions should be directed at Lund.

The barbarous and sadistic sentence imposed on Angelos has drawn international attention and prompted a petition drive seeking presidential clemency. Pot enthusiast-turned-drug warrior Barack Obama, who is as parsimonious with pardons as he is profligate with plundered money, has been inhospitable to such pleas. Robert Lund, who should be shunned as a sociopath, continues to defend the sentence.
Prelude to a life of crime: Future mass-murderer and friends.

“Weldon Angelos was a member of a really violent street gang,” sniffed Lund when asked if the life sentence was disproportionate.

Assuming this is true, Angelos was never charged with any of those offenses (and while Angelos grew up surrounded by VLT members, he insists that he never joined the gang). Furthermore, in order to imprison Angelos – a first-time defendant who was charged with non-violent offenses -- Lund recruited an informant who was an active member of that gang and had an extensive criminal history.

Weldon Angelos is serving what will most likely be a life sentence because of the impudence he displayed by defending himself against the charges. Virginia Ward, who sent insignificant drug offenders to jail while acting as part of a major narcotics syndicate, will be free next year and most likely will find subsidized employment preaching about the evils of drug use and the virtues of prohibition. 

(This essay has been expanded to include additional details not reported in the original version.)

Dum spiro, pugno!


Mr. Mcgranor said...

Plea bargaining is part of the legal racket, correct?

Unknown said...

Our Justice system has become nothing but a government run industry, where justice has no real meaning!!! :)

Luton Ian said...

The many differences between the corrupt violence of a coercive monopoly law con (I know, I know, multiple levels of redundancy there).

and a consensual, competitive system of justice.

Firstly, consensual systems rarely punish victimless behaviours (there are some cultural exceptions to that, for behaviours a culture considers to be abominations, although in the single case I read about, the court had accepted as just, the murder of a sibling who was openly engaging in what was considered shameful behaviour).

Secondly, such systems concentrate on compensation to the victims of crime, or to their heirs and Dependants, assessing appropriate damages and restitution to be paid to the victim - not to the court or a state.

To enable reparations to be paid, all individuals are insured, whether by extended family, neighbourhood groups or other associations. Reparation, however high, is always paid, even if the offender absconds, or is a child or a penniless imbecile.

Thirdly, such systems do not cage or kill offenders. Any restraint against re-offending and re-habilitation of the offender is up to their insurance group. Naturally it is very much in the group members interest that the offender doesn't offend again, and remains as productive as possible in order to contribute towards the group's funds.

The insurance group also contributes a judge, chosen for the respect they have earned amongst the group, their knowledge of the societies customary norms and their wise counsel.

Although individuals are free to seek membership of a different insurance group, or to found a new one, Without an insurance group, an individual would be without either financial cover, or legal representative, and would be unable to function in society, Individuals also therefore have huge incentives not to incur costs for their insurance group.

What of a Judge who offends?

It seems that in such systems, one of the costs of becoming a judge is to submit to paying twice the customary compensation for any torts committed.

As the position of judge is not permanent, but is only conferred by the consent of the insurance group's members, then a tarnished judge can expect never to receive another request for for representation. No severance pay - just completely sidelined.

Refs for further reading;

Michael van Notten (and Spencer Heath-McCallum) Law of the Somalis http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Law-Somalis-Michael-Van-Notten/9781569022504

Bruce L Benson, The enterprise of Law http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Enterprise-Law-Bruce-Benson/9781598130447

and an excerpt from Benson

Keith said...

Oh dear, no.

I'd better not get into any humor about the difference between a certain sort of disgraced [for a victimless human failing] former cager of fellow humans

and Jabba the slu**.

no, I won't go there.

Emmanuel Truthseeker said...

International drug laws, enforced with American air craft carrier diplomacy and directed by sociopathic Zionistas hailing from Israhell and USA Inc. are the reason we have such a problem with drugs. The drugs which kill people are legal and the drugs people use for: pleasure, pain, asthma, sleeping disorders, eating disorders, insomnia, colic, nausea, etc; and growable at home; namely: cannabis, coca, and opium; all natural plants, are illegal and people are put in jail for life in that horrible place; the Jewnighted States. I will never ever set foot in that fascist police state ever again.

Keith said...

Is it just my eyesight, or has the armored vehicle the bunch of wannabe murderers are posing in front of,

scrubbed all the tread off the outside of the front tyre?

where I live, that's a ticket, a fine and penalty points on the driver's license. One rule for us, another for the thugs.

If they roll it, I hope it doesn't do any damage to any productive individuals or their stuff. It should be fun for the ones in the back, with all of those lumpy bits, the known problems that cops have with negligent discharges, and the sharp bits on a frightened dog too.

kirk said...

sociopaths to whom the law does not apply are in charge.

psychopaths who have no sense of reality work for the sociopaths in charge.

from this combination, we get our 'justice (sic) system'.

still wonder why we get the results we get from this system? i don't.

a corrupt system can only produce one thing - corruption. to expect otherwise is to 'want what never was and never will be', to steal an idea from T. Jefferson.

Factotum said...

"Weldon Angelos is serving what will most likely be a life sentence because of the impudence he displayed by defending himself against the charges. "

Also because he selected a jury composed of nasty stupid vindictive uncharitable "Christians" (or do I repeat myself?)

From what I read in these stories, I am beginning to wonder if one might not be better off being tried by a Judge who, knowing the consequences of a guilty verdict, might be inclined to find the defendant guilty of a much lesser crime.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Donna, North Dakota

Madison wrote in Federalist Paper 57
"If the American people, shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the legislature, as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate any thing but liberty."

Lemuel Gulliver said...

What is truly heartbreaking is all the dumbasses sitting on juries, who STILL believe that (a) the police do not lie, and (b) do not abuse innocent cirtizens, and (c) district attorneys are interested more in justice than in their own careers.

Your essays, Mr. Grigg, seem to be like water dripping on a stone. Eventually you will certainly have an effect, but will we have to wait 10,000 years to see it? For my part, before I die I want to see the blood of Satan's minions running in the streets.

Read Gustave LeBon's book "The Crowd." You can find it in pdf online. This will tell you that the eruption of a human volcano can come suddenly, and when it does, it can be violent and deadly.

Bring it on.

Lemuel Gulliver said...

@ Emmanuel Truthseeker:

You do fascism an injustice to label the Jewnited States a fascist nation. It is, rather, a neo-communist nation, run by the spiritual descendants of Karl Marx, the biggest fraud and con-man of the 19th century, who himself acknowledged privately that he served Satan.

Please enlighten yourself by downloading Hitler's "Mein Kampf" in pdf and reading the first half of the book, (in the second half he gets into the history of the Nazi Party - skip it):


This is the James Murphy translation of 1939, when Hitler was still much admired and respected in Europe. You will find there the reflections of an eminently sane and moral man, distressed at the condition of his country, Germany, which was then (written in 1923) remarkably like the USA in 2013.

His insights are razor sharp, his descriptions of the social conditions are vivid, his analysis of the political situation and the players in the government and bureaucracy is devastating.

The astonishing thing is he could be writing about us, today. I cannot even begin to hint at the breadth of wisdom in the book. You must read it, if you want to understand our world.

Lemuel Gulliver.