(KUTV) A Utah man whose controversial 55-year prison sentence gained national attention is now a free man.
Weldon Angelos, 36, is back home in Sandy after his unexpected release earlier this week. This comes after years of calls for Angelos -- a non-violent drug offender -- to receive a reduction in his mandatory prison sentence.
"It's amazing," Angelos said Friday at his home surrounded by family. "I just keep hugging them every time I get a chance."
Angelos spent the last 12 years in prison for selling marijuana. He was sentenced in 2004 to the lengthy prison term because he had a gun with him during the crimes, even though he never used it.
His sister, Lisa Angelos, has spent years advocating for her brother's release. Tuesday afternoon, she got a call telling her to go pick up her brother.
"I was like, wait, is this a joke?" Lisa Angelos said. "The whole ride home I was hitting his arm like, are you really here? It just didn't feel real."
Weldon Angelos was able to be reunited with his two sons, who are now teenagers. They were just children when he went to prison.
"We set it up so my sons would be over here and we would walk in and surprise them," he said. "It was amazing. My sons freaked out."
Paul Cassell, a former federal judge who sentenced Angelos to prison, was also happy to hear of the early release. He has called the Angelos case "troubling" and criticized the mandatory minimum sentence guidelines that he was required to follow.
"I thought the sentence was cruel, unjust, and irrational," Cassell said. "Everybody in the courtroom knew that was too long for this particular crime."
But his hands were tied. That led Cassell, the Angelos family, and others to push for a reduction in sentence. This week that finally happened, although the details of how things unfolded are sealed.
The U.S. Attorney's Office did not return calls seeking comment about Angelos' release.
Despite news of Angelos being let out of prison, Cassell remains adamant something needs to change in the justice system.
"We can't do these things on a serendipitous basis," he said. "There needs to be laws in place to make sure these kinds of injustices don't occur more frequently."
That's what Weldon Angelos feels, too.
"I was in prison with people just like me and they deserve a second chance, too," Angelos said.
Angelos, a former music producer, says he doesn't have any definite plans for the future yet. He plans to take it easy for a few weeks. His release from prison allowed him to attend his 19-year-old son's high school graduation on Thursday.