this is "nightline." >> tonight a father locked up for years now free. the emotional reunion with his family. and face-to-face with the judge who sentenced him. are mandatory drug laws really keeping america safer? how this motley crew of models, actresses, musicians and writers are making a slam drunk, tracking a cult following in a brand-new documentary. ♪ the bombs bursting in air >> the mom who just wanted to sing for a family at the lincoln memorial. ♪ gave proof through the night >> an overnight viral sensation. first the "nightline 5." you washed that by hand, right? >> yes, dear.
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we go face-to-face with one of the casualties of the nation's drug war who ended up being one of the lucky ones. treasured old photos spread across the kitchen table. a family taking me on a trip down memory lane. >> that's like one of those "leave to it beaver" photos. >> reporter: in the angelos' house, pain and anger haunt the laughter. >> what are some of those things boys do with dads that you wish you could have done with your father? >> reporter: when we first met them, they hadn't seen their father in seven years. he was serving time in a frl prison two states away. >> bitter because of that? sad, angry? some of all the above? >> mostly sad. then anger after. sad. because there's nothing i could do about it. anger -- they shouldn't have done that to him. sorry. >> it's okay.
>> reporter: their father is serving a 55-year sentence. his crime? carrying a gun. and selling 24 ounces of pot. what do you think of the law that sent your brother away for 55 years? >> it's like a penny's worth of marijuana. how could somebody be doing life for that? >> reporter: since congress created mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes the federal prison population has quadrupled in size. from 58,000 prisoners to almost 200,000. men like eldon receiving decades or more for nonviolent crime. he was a 22-year-old aspiring music producer and father of two tad letters. angelos also got involved with selling marijuana. the police caught wind, set up three stings, buying about $1,000 worth of marijuana from angelos. during the deals police say angelos had a gun in his possession, the critical detail that made this case so
angelos was convicted. >> mindless is a good word. >> reporter: under the law, judge paul cosell was forced to hand down a sentence that burdened him for years. do you think about him? >> yeah, i do think about angelos. i sometimes drive by the prison where he's held. i think, that wasn't the right thing to do. the system forced me to do it. >> reporter: under federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws angelos was facing 55 years for the gun and marijuana charges combined. he was a first-time offender. >> mandatory minimum is a sentence that says the judge has to impose a particular minimum number of years. >> it was designed during the reagan administration's war on drugs to send a message to drug dealers, this won't be tolerated. >> right. so mandatory minimums can be used to send a message. but at some point the message gets lost. if he had been an aircraft hijacker he would have gotten 24 years in prison. if he'd been a terrorist he would have gotten 20 years in prison.
would have gotten 11 years in prison. i'm supposed to give him a 55-year sentence? that's just not right. >> reporter: their father's absence hilt his sons hard. beneath teenage swagger rediscovered two wounded souls. >> to see what they have gone through by losing their father -- it's just emotionally destroyed me. >> reporter: lisa, a tireless advocate writing petitions, filing appeals, even testifying before congress. her hope, a commutation for her brother from president obama. >> it's hard. i just keep telling myself, i'm going to keep fighting, we won't stop at anything. >> reporter: since we first told the angelos' story last year, lisa's dream has seemed closer than ever. political support for changing federal sentencing laws has skyrocketed, angelos one of its poster boys. >> he received a minimum mandatory sentence of 55 years in prison. i
person, male or female, democrat or republican, old or young, who thinks that sentence was correct. >> reporter: his case even panned by tv commentators. >> so wait, if my math is right here, this low-level pot dealer received the exact same sentence as would an airplane hijacking, child-raping, terrorist, a person so evil i legitimately don't know if one has ever existed. >> reporter: the angelos family watched as president obama commuted the sentences of hundreds of other nonviolent drug offenders calling their sentences unfair to them and the american people. >> this is costing taxpayers across america $80 billion a year. >> reporter: and praying that each time a commutation round was announced his name would be on the list. >> this is it. every time. every time. and every time that he was on the list the same thing. i would get really sad, depressed for a while. >> reporter: that presidential miracle never happened. but a few weeks
even more unexpected did. watch this. weldon is surprising his boys as a free man. >> what up, y'all? >> oh my god. >> what up? >> oh! oh my god! >> i love you guys. >> reporter: the emotional reunion, a broken family made whole again, thanks to a highly unusual act of mercy. >> my attorney called me. and he told me my prosecutor had a change of heart. >> you're smiling when you say that. >> i mean, it's an amazing feeling. to know that. that someone who is usually an adversary agrees that i should no longer be in prison. >> reporter: the exact details of angelos' release are still under court seal. but it was the prosecutor who sent him away who filed a motion that shortened his sent
meaning an immediate release. what was it like when he walked on the door, sitting on the couch? >> very shocking. >> we just ran to him. >> reporter: and the timing was perfect. for the one event weldon prayed for years to be able to attend. >> anthony angelos. >> reporter: his oldest boy's high school graduation. >> looking at your sons now, they are young men now. they were little boys when you went away. >> i regret missing all that important moments. i got to make the graduation. that was huge for me. that was a blessing. >> reporter: his two sons, now 17 and 19, both taller than him. today weldon finally gets the chance to play hoops with his boys. >> how cool was it to play with your boys? >> awesome. they're not the same boys we met a year and a half ago. they seemed heavy, burdened, old souls back then. >> the last time i can feel their heavy hearts, you couldn't feel that smile that i know they have.
and ever since he's been home, that's all i felt. >> we were in the kitchen. they walked past, they touch him. on the basketball court, they touch him. >> to be able to touch him is just amazing for them. >> reporter: many familiar with the case credit lisa's dogged campaigning for her brother's release. with a full-time job, a husband, a toddler of her own, no easy task. >> amazing. without her i wouldn't have survived this, this past 13 years. >> when i make a promise, i keep it. i promised him the day he got locked up that i would never stop till he came home. and i promised our father that i would never give up no matter what. >> reporter: in all the happiness, the pain of a conspicuous absence. weldon's father, joe. >> my father passed away. in february 2015. i had to kind of shelf those emotions. you can't mourn properly in prison. that's one thing he wanted more than anything, to see me free before he passed. >> reporter: despite the legislative changes made in the past two yrs
there are thousands of prisoners in america tonight who are serving very hard time for nonviolent drug crimes. weldon angelos, a lucky one. is this justice delayed, you think? >> the laws that cause me to have to impose a 55-year sentence on mr. angelos, they're still on the books today. >> reporter: we met again with reformer judge paul cosell, who's continued his remarkable campaign to speak out about the problem with mandatory minimums. why be so certainly invested? >> somebody needed to speak up for mr. angelos and speak up for other people suffering from these same kinds of sentences. >> reporter: today weldon angelos gets to thank the judge, his unlikely ally, face-to-face. >> it's great to meet you. >> thank you again so much. i probably wouldn't be here were it not for you. >> a lot of people who go to prison, they quickly go back. because they return to old habits. any concern for you in that regard? >> none.
that place for. >> we had this song when he first got rocked up, mariah carey "through the rain." ♪ i can make it through the rain ♪ >> i'd play it for him over the phone all the time. and so when he got out i told him, i said, you made it through the rain. he goes, we sure did. >> he had a hell of an umbrella. >> reporter: one family's bond wounded by a flawed system. but never broken. next, the unlikely band of models, actresses, musicians and writers who are packing a punch on the basketball court, attracting a new cult following. ultra soft so we don't have to wad to get clean. mmm, cushiony...and we can use less. charmin ultra soft gets you clean without the wasteful wadding.
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there are an estimated 50 million americans involved in organized recreational sports. . but in los angeles one unlikely team of women who call themselves the pistol shrimps has taken recreational basketball to a whole new level. here's abe's nick watt. ♪ ♪ >> pistol shrimps! >> oh, boy. >> reporter: a sweaty, public gymnasium in the valley, northern l.a. an amateur rec league game of basketball. >> that's a real game of hungry hungry hippos out there. >> reporter: the pistol shrimps, a band of models, actresses, musicians and writers with a bizarrely big following for an amateur rec tea t
chicago bulls. >> my name's colin hanks -- >> reporter: colin, son of tom, calls the game. >> don't take steps in basketball without bouncing the ball, that's my understanding. >> reporter: among the lucille wallers, the kareem abdul babes, the pistol shrimps level of attention i don't understand. why am i doing a story on this? why are you selling t-shirts around the world? why is this a thing? >> there's a couple reasons. aubrey platts is on the team. she's a hollywood sweetheart. >> reporter: she plays april ludgate on "parks and rec." >> april ludgate, professional drinker. >> reporter: she's injured tonight, the rest of the team is missing her. models paisley and melissa, singer/songwriter jesse, actors and comedy writers like maria, stephanie, molly, and -- >> an gel swaggy shrimp
before? do you have a history in this game? >> i played for my church league in delaware. shout-out to delaware. to st. anne's. >> reporter: she's now a legit celeb, exploits that on the court. >> one time this girl who i was defending, she asked if i'd take a picture with her after the game and i said, if you give me the ball right now. she just handed it to me and i made a lay-up. that was the only time it worked. >> reporter: and talking up the shrimps on talk shows and stuff. >> we're really serious basketball team. >> no, you're not. >> yeah, we are. we will dunk on your ass so hard! >> talk shows are weird. i never know what to say so i just talked about my basketball team. then i guess it went viral. as they say. >> reporter: morgan spurlock produced a documentary. the game garnered a growing following. >> they're called the pistol shrimps -- >> reporter: last time they met, the bulls won. >> that was like a
wall, standing there with faces painted. >> reporter: and the fans. >> are you a sports fan? >> not at all, i can't stand sports. i like this though. >> reporter: old ladies glued to the game. >> what did you think, grandma? >> i thought it was exciting. >> are you a basketball person? >> not really. >> reporter: and a halftime dance show led by pistol shrimp angela trimburr like nothing i've ever seen. ♪ i was dreaming when i wrote this ♪ >> reporter: a prince tribute. but at heart this is a story about a mediocre women's basketball team -- >> as i understand it your record is not necessarily stellar. >> this season we're starting off a little rough. >> reporter: a mediocre team that has somehow revived a previously obscure and demi-defunct league. >> i came to the first game because i thought it was a joke. i just thought it was a weird improv show in
>> i'm still wondering if that's what it is. >> it's real, absolutely real. we care about about this. >> reporter: hip hollywood types sans makeup, sans hype, just sweating on a tuesday evening. >> we have inspired a whole group of women around los angeles that we're lacking something, now have an outlet for, i don't know -- fun, sports, things that aren't involved in the industry. >> it's just -- to be told, it's okay not to be good at basketball, it's okay to just come out and have fun. >> i don't know steph curry but i know these women, and i care about them. i care if they win. i care -- missed one. >> reporter: and what does pistol shrimps mean? >> it's a real sea creature. >> reporter: as seen in this nat geo video. >> it makes the loudest sound in the ocean. it has this little claw. then when it snaps it shoots a bubble so fast, faster than a speeding bullet, it could shatter glass. we wanted to be
rrr, but a little bit of hhh, you know? >> reporter: i don't, but that doesn't matter. tonight the shrimps prevail. >> i thought you were going to blow it. >> i know you, did i saw you watching, i saw your eyes. >> that's how we like to do it, bet against. >> yeah. >> everyone thinks it's a joke, like oh my god, some girl in the entertainment industry playing basketball. then they get here and they realize, it's very competitive. >> we're for real. >> reporter: there's a serious dampener. >> since my injury in december, you know, i've had a lot of time to think about my basketball career. >> reporter: dark rumors surround their injured talisman. >> i've decided to test free agency. >> why are you doing this? >> i talked to my family and i really figured out what's right for me in my basketball career going forward. >> speechless. >> thanks.
>> okay. >> reporter: what next for the pistol shrimps? i'm nick watt for "nightline" in the valley. >> the pistol shrimps documentary is currently streaming on siso. next how one family's trip to the nation's capital turned this florida wife and mom into an international viral sensation. ♪ by the dawn's early night viagra single packs... so guys with ed can... take viagra when they need it. ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for sex. do not take viagra if you take nitrates for chest pain or adempas® for pulmonary hypertension. your blood pressure could drop to an unsafe level. to avoid long-term injury, seek immediate medical help for an erection lasting more than four hours. stop taking viagra and call your doctor right away if you experience a sudden decrease or loss in vision or hearing. ask your doctor about viagra single packs.
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finally, she was an unknown assistant principal from florida until just this week when starr swain turned into a star-spangled superstar thanks to this viral video from the lincoln memorial. ♪ o say can you see >> being in the nation's capital when singing that song gives you a bigger sense of nationalism. ♪ o'er the land of the free ♪ ♪ and the home of the brave ♪
>> as the old saint were say, that girl sang that song. it was low you buscaglia who said, your talent is god's gift to you. what you do with it is your gift to god. tune into g morning america tomorrow. as always we're online on our facebook page and abcnews.com. good night, america. have a great fourth. hey, is this a good movie? [spanish accent] no!
no, señor, no. this is a girlie flick. too much talking. not enough shooting. are you hungry, señor navel? sí! all right, here you go, buddy. mmm, good. ray, i'm this close to crackin' you across the chops. hey. is this a bad time? oh, no. come on. look, robert's here. let's shut the movie off. no, no, i don't want to interrupt. that's ok. ray's just talking to his bellybutton. señor navel? you know him? i named him. you're lookin' pretty spiffy there. you got a hot date? uh, nah. i was over at the holiday inn. they have swing dancin' on thursdays.