Released Detroit convicted killer ordered back to prison

The Detroit News

Detroit — The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that a Detroit drug dealer serving two life sentences who was given a compassionate release due to obesity and the COVID-19 pandemic must return to detention.

Federal prosecutors opposed releasing John Bass, who was accused of ordering the killing of his brother and working to conceal the crime by murdering the hitman.

Bass was taken into custody early Saturday by deputy U.S. Marshals.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow had freed the 51-year-old late last month and refused to keep him imprisoned while prosecutors appealed. The judge was concerned about Bass' health and safety in a Pennsylvania federal prison that at the time had the second-largest number of inmates with COVID-19 within the system.

Bass, who weighs more than 300 pounds, left the medium-security facility in on Jan. 22 and was expected to live with his wife in Eastpointe.

Prosecutors argued Bass remains a danger to the community and is a rare breed of criminal "so anti-social that they are incarcerated for life." In court documents, they also questioned Tarnow's decision.

Gavel and book

In Friday's ruling, the appeals court agreed to grant their stay.

"A further, likely shorter stay will not significantly render untoward harm while we consider the merits of his appeal, particularly given the substantial decrease in COVID-19 positive inmates at his detention facility," the order stated.

Tarnow has written that Bass is "an exemplary inmate and man who has turned the pain and darkness of his former life on the streets into a light for those still lost in its grips." He also contends a 22-year record of rehabilitation mitigated a risk he would commit another crime. 

The appeals court said Bass "has served just over half of his anticipated sentence, a substantial decrease even aside from the fact that he was never supposed to be released."

Bass, it added, has not "shown that his return to detention will cause him substantial harm. He was incarcerated on a life sentence until days ago... "