A murderous drug kingpin from Detroit was released from a life sentence amid the COVID-19 crisis — then ordered back behind bars by a federal appeals court.
In a 2-1 ruling issued late Friday, a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals panel agreed to stay the release of John Bass, 51, who was freed from a Pennsylvania prison after 22 years of incarceration, MLive.com reported.
Bass was initially set free on Jan. 22 on compassionate grounds due to his health issues, including being clinically obese, and the potential of catching the coronavirus at the prison where 46 percent of inmates have had the virus or are currently infected.
US District Judge Arthur Tarnow cited Bass’ “horrific crimes,” but ruled he was worthy of a “well-earned second chance” for turning his life around in prison by becoming a life coach and working in drug abuse education.
In Friday’s ruling, the appellate judges said Tarnow fell short of properly considering Bass’ criminal history or the relatives of his victims.
“Bass masterminded a drug conspiracy whose members were coerced to cooperate through violence,” the court ruled. “He personally perpetrated that violence, even going so far as to torture an organization member.”
Bass was serving two life sentences for murder and heading a crack cocaine ring that reportedly sold more than 55 kilograms in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.
“The record established that Bass ran a large-scale conspiracy trafficking multi-kilo quantities of cocaine and crack in multiple states and that he continued to operate while detained,” the appeals judge wrote in the ruling obtained by WXYZ. “The public has an obvious interest in combatting the harm that drug trafficking causes, as well as murder.”
The father of six — who had returned home to live with his wife in Eastpointe following Tarnow’s ruling — was taken back into custody early Saturday, WXYZ reported.
Federal prosecutors now have until Feb. 16 to file a brief with the Court of Appeals before Bass’ attorney can respond to the motion, according to the station.
Assistant US Attorney Andrew Goetz had sought for Tarnow’s ruling to be reversed, saying his decision to release Bass, who had been eligible for the federal death penalty, was “out of bounds,” court documents show.
Goetz also said that Bass had “not aged out of his ability to harm” others.
“He’s only 51 years old – eight years older than one of the starting quarterbacks in this year’s Super Bowl,” Goetz wrote in a motion seeking to overturn Tarnow’s ruling last week, referring to Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s Tom Brady. “He is more than capable of picking up where he left off.”
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