January 7, 2014

1 Life, 1 Death - 2 Change.org Petitions worth signing

January 7, 2014. Utah. The website Change.org has become a very useful tool in garnering attention for a good cause, or more often than not, a tragedy. Such is the case with two current petitions making their rounds thanks to the grassroots help of ordinary citizens. One asks for a commuted sentence of 55 years for a marijuana charge. The other asks hotels to modernize their phone systems so kids can call 911 in an emergency.

Kari Rene Hunt, stabbed to death in her hotel room while her 9 year-old daughter frantically called 911 to no avail. Image courtesy of Change.org.

Commute Weldon Angelos’ sentence

Lisa Angelos starts her petition by explaining, “My brother Weldon Angelos has already been in a federal penitentiary for 10 years.  He faces 45 more years in prison…Even the judge who sentenced Weldon disagreed with the mandatory sentence of 55 years.” When he was arrested for marijuana possession ten years ago, he was already a 24-year-old father of three with a clean police record. But none of that seemed to matter.

Attempting to make ends meet, Weldon began selling small amounts of marijuana from his Utah home. Federal DEA agents stumbled upon him and others in the area and assigned a paid FBI informant to make purchases from Angelos and document the illegal drug sales. After three recorded buys, police searched Weldon Angelos’ apartment and found a small amount of weed and three handguns, two of which were locked in a safe.

At some point, the federal informant reported that he believed he saw a gun in Weldon’s possession on two of the occasions. Angelos wasn’t accused of brandishing the weapon or even bringing attention to it. In fact, Weldon swears he never had a gun on him at all during any of the marijuana sales. Without any other witnesses or any evidence that he was armed at the time, prosecutors jumped on the accusation and upped their charges from a simple one-day marijuana sentence to a mandatory 45-year firearm sentence.

When announcing the jail time, Judge Paul Cassell, a George W. Bush appointee, called his own sentence, “unjust, cruel, and even irrational.” But because Weldon Angelos was accused of possessing a firearm during a drug crime, the court was required by federal ‘minimum sentencing’ guidelines to give the young father of three a 55 year prison sentence. Weldon has already served ten years of that sentence and now his sister Lisa, and 246,242 other people at last count, are asking President Obama to commute the remainder of his federal prison time.

One of Angelos’ most vocal supporters is none other than Judge Cassell, the same judge that handed down the lengthy sentence. As detailed by Lisa Angelos in her Change.org petition, the judge confirmed that the 55-year prison sentence is longer than the sentences for, “three aircraft hijackings, three second-degree murders, three racial beatings inflicting life-threatening injuries, three kidnappings, and three rapes.”

Lisa Angelos closes her petition writing, “Judge Cassell called upon the President to commute Weldon’s sentence, but that hasn’t happened yet – and, after ten years, Weldon is still in prison. It breaks my heart. My father fears he will die without ever seeing Weldon from behind bars. The Constitution provides the President with the power of commutation to reach a humane, merciful, just result. Please help us reach that result by signing and sharing this petition.”

For more information and to sign the petition to commute Weldon Angelos’ sentence, visit Change.org.

Help enact Kari’s Law

What’s worse – being brutally stabbed to death in front of your three small children? Or being one of the three small children forced to watch your mom being brutally murdered? That was the scenario only one month ago for Kari Rene Hunt and her three young kids ages 9, 4 and 3. Hunt had agreed to meet her estranged husband at the local Baymont Inn hotel in east Texas where she would turn the kids over to their father for a brief visitation.

Participants in a heated divorce battle, Kari’s husband Brad Allen Dunn laid in wait for his wife inside the motel room where they agreed to meet. When she and the kids entered, he violently attacked her, cornering Kari in the bathroom where the couple struggled. As Dunn was stabbing their mother in the bathroom, Hunt’s brave 9 year-old daughter did what every parent hopes their child would be smart and courageous enough to do – she picked up the phone and called 911.

As Kari’s eldest daughter frantically called 911 in an attempt to save her mother’s life, something wasn’t working. The young girl couldn’t get an emergency operator, or anyone for that matter, to answer the phone. Care to venture a guess as to why? It was because hotel and motel phone systems are still equipped with antiquated telephone systems that require users to dial ‘9’ first to access an outside line. The young girl wasn’t aware of that as she helplessly waited for someone, anyone, to answer her call. But no one ever did.

Hank Hunt, the Change.org petition’s originator, writes, ‘We are attempting to ensure that any person needing police, EMS or the Fire Department at any hotel or motel location may be able to dial the numbers 911 and receive emergency response. In a panic, any under age child, or for that matter anyone in an emergency situation should be able to depend on dialing 911 from any phone in the United States and receiving assistance.’

The petition is calling on Congress to enact ‘Kari’s Law.’ The legislation would require all hotels and motels to update their phone systems so that emergency assistance is available in from every room. Some states already require it, but not many due to the cost involved. Not waiting for Washington to act, Hank Hunt is also calling on the hotel’s parent company, Wyndham Hotels, to modernize their phone systems without a mandate from Congress.

‘We also would like to ask that Wyndham Hotels, which is the parent company of Baymont Inns and Suites where this incident occurred, lead the way in the industry by updating the antiquated phone systems still used in some of their hotels,’ Hunt’s request for signatures reads, ‘Seconds count and when a 9 year old little girl is mature and brave enough to attempt to dial for help, she should be answered.’ At last count, the petition had 364,209 signatures.

For more information and to sign the petition calling on Congress to pass Kari’s Law requiring that 911 be available from all hotel and motel rooms, visit Change.org.


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